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Virology. 1997 Jul 7;233(2):382-91.

Varicella-zoster virus glycoproteins E and I expressed in insect cells form a heterodimer that requires the N-terminal domain of glycoprotein I.

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Laboratory of Clinical Investigation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) glycoproteins E and I (gE and gI), which are major components of the virion envelope, form a noncovalently linked complex. To understand their properties and functions, we expressed and purified soluble forms of gE and gI in the baculovirus system. Extracellular domains of gE and gI were cloned into baculoviruses, using either native or insect-derived signal peptides. Each recombinant virus yielded soluble protein in culture medium although a higher level of secretion was achieved with insect-derived signal peptides in recombinant gE baculoviruses. A soluble gE-gI complex was formed by co-infecting insect cells with recombinant gE and gI baculoviruses and detected by immunoprecipitation followed by Western blotting analyses. By gel filtration and cross-linking studies, we showed that the VZV gE-gI complex expressed in insect cells is a heterodimer. Interestingly, two recombinant gI proteins in which signal peptides were replaced with insect-derived signal peptides did not associate with gE. Amino-terminal sequencing and site-specific mutational studies showed that the replacement of only the signal peptides did not prevent complex formation but alterations in the processed amino-terminus of gI abrogated its ability to complex with gE. These findings indicate that the mature amino-terminus of gI is required for gE-gI complex formation by the external domains of VZV gE and gI.

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