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J Virol. 2017 Dec 14;92(1). pii: e00907-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00907-17. Print 2018 Jan 1.

A Tyrosine-Based Trafficking Motif of the Tegument Protein pUL71 Is Crucial for Human Cytomegalovirus Secondary Envelopment.

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Institute of Virology, Ulm University Medical Center, Ulm, Germany.
Central Facility for Electron Microscopy, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany.
Institute of General Physiology, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany.
Institute of Virology, Ulm University Medical Center, Ulm, Germany


The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) tegument protein pUL71 is required for efficient secondary envelopment and accumulates at the Golgi compartment-derived viral assembly complex (vAC) during infection. Analysis of various C-terminally truncated pUL71 proteins fused to enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) identified amino acids 23 to 34 as important determinants for its Golgi complex localization. Sequence analysis and mutational verification revealed the presence of an N-terminal tyrosine-based trafficking motif (YXXΦ) in pUL71. This led us to hypothesize a requirement of the YXXΦ motif for the function of pUL71 in infection. Mutation of both the tyrosine residue and the entire YXXΦ motif resulted in an altered distribution of mutant pUL71 at the plasma membrane and in the cytoplasm during infection. Both YXXΦ mutant viruses exhibited similarly decreased focal growth and reduced virus yields in supernatants. Ultrastructurally, mutant-virus-infected cells exhibited impaired secondary envelopment manifested by accumulations of capsids undergoing an envelopment process. Additionally, clusters of capsid accumulations surrounding the vAC were observed, similar to the ultrastructural phenotype of a UL71-deficient mutant. The importance of endocytosis and thus the YXXΦ motif for targeting pUL71 to the Golgi complex was further demonstrated when clathrin-mediated endocytosis was inhibited either by coexpression of the C-terminal part of cellular AP180 (AP180-C) or by treatment with methyl-β-cyclodextrin. Both conditions resulted in a plasma membrane accumulation of pUL71. Altogether, these data reveal the presence of a functional N-terminal endocytosis motif that is an important determinant for intracellular localization of pUL71 and that is furthermore required for the function of pUL71 during secondary envelopment of HCMV capsids at the vAC.IMPORTANCE Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the leading cause of birth defects among congenital virus infections and can lead to life-threatening infections in immunocompromised hosts. Current antiviral treatments target viral genome replication and are increasingly overcome by viral mutations. Therefore, identifying new targets for antiviral therapy is important for future development of novel treatment options. A detailed molecular understanding of the complex virus morphogenesis will identify potential viral as well as cellular targets for antiviral intervention. Secondary envelopment is an important viral process through which infectious virus particles are generated and which involves the action of several viral proteins, such as tegument protein pUL71. Targeting of pUL71 to the site of secondary envelopment appears to be crucial for its function during this process and is regulated by utilizing host trafficking mechanisms that are commonly exploited by viral glycoproteins. Thus, intracellular trafficking, if targeted, might present a novel target for antiviral therapy.


HCMV; cytomegalovirus; endocytosis; intracellular trafficking; morphogenesis; secondary envelopment; tegument; trafficking signal

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