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Immunology. 1993 Aug;79(4):639-47.

Herpes simplex virus glycoprotein C: molecular mimicry of complement regulatory proteins by a viral protein.

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Institute for Hygiene, University of Innsbruck, Austria.


Herpes simplex virus (HSV) encodes a protein, glycoprotein C (gC), which binds to the third complement component, the central mediator of complement activation. In this study the structural and functional relationships of gC from HSV type 1 (HSV-1) and known human complement regulatory proteins factor H, properdin, factor B, complement receptor 1 (CR1) and 2 (CR2) were investigated. The interaction of gC with C3b was studied using purified complement components, synthetic peptides, antisera against different C3 fragments and anti-C3 monoclonal antibodies (mAb) with known inhibitory effects on C3-ligand interactions. All the mAb that inhibited gC/C3b interactions, in a differential manner, also prevented binding of C3 fragments to factors H, B, CR1 or CR2. No blocking was observed with synthetic peptides representing different C3 regions or with factor B and C3d, whereas C3b, C3c and factor H were inhibitory, as well as purified gC. There was no binding of gC to cobra venom factor (CVF), a C3c-like fragment derived from cobra gland. Purified gC bound to iC3, iC3b and C3c, but failed to bind to C3d. Glycoprotein C bound only weakly to iC3 derived from bovine and porcine plasma, thus indicating a preference of the viral protein for the appropriate host. Binding of gC was also observed to proteolytic C3 fragments, especially to the beta-chain, thus suggesting the importance of the C3 region as a binding site. Purified gC from HSV-1, but not HSV-2, inhibited the binding of factor H and properdin but not of CR1 to C3b. The binding of iC3b to CR2, a molecule involved in B-cell activation and binding of the Epstein-Barr virus, was also inhibited by the HSV-1 protein. As factor H and properdin, the binding of which was inhibited by gC, are important regulators of the alternative complement pathway, these data further support a role of gC in the evasion of HSV from a major first-line host defence mechanism, i.e. the complement system. In addition, the inhibition of the C3/CR2 interaction may suggest a possible immunoregulatory role of HSV glycoprotein C.

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