PloS one

Molecular features contributing to virus-independent intracellular localization and dynamic behavior of the herpesvirus transport protein US9.

PMID 25133647


Reaching the right destination is of vital importance for molecules, proteins, organelles, and cargoes. Thus, intracellular traffic is continuously controlled and regulated by several proteins taking part in the process. Viruses exploit this machinery, and viral proteins regulating intracellular transport have been identified as they represent valuable tools to understand and possibly direct molecules targeting and delivery. Deciphering the molecular features of viral proteins contributing to (or determining) this dynamic phenotype can eventually lead to a virus-independent approach to control cellular transport and delivery. From this virus-independent perspective we looked at US9, a virion component of Herpes Simplex Virus involved in anterograde transport of the virus inside neurons of the infected host. As the natural cargo of US9-related vesicles is the virus (or its parts), defining its autonomous, virus-independent role in vesicles transport represents a prerequisite to make US9 a valuable molecular tool to study and possibly direct cellular transport. To assess the extent of this autonomous role in vesicles transport, we analyzed US9 behavior in the absence of viral infection. Based on our studies, Us9 behavior appears similar in different cell types; however, as expected, the data we obtained in neurons best represent the virus-independent properties of US9. In these primary cells, transfected US9 mostly recapitulates the behavior of US9 expressed from the viral genome. Additionally, ablation of two major phosphorylation sites (i.e. Y32Y33 and S34ES36) have no effect on protein incorporation on vesicles and on its localization on both proximal and distal regions of the cells. These results support the idea that, while US9 post-translational modification may be important to regulate cargo loading and, consequently, virion export and delivery, no additional viral functions are required for US9 role in intracellular transport.