Journal of virology

Gammaherpesvirus Tegument Protein ORF33 Is Associated With Intranuclear Capsids at an Early Stage of the Tegumentation Process.

PMID 25717105


Herpesvirus nascent capsids, after assembly in the nucleus, must acquire a variety of tegument proteins during maturation. However, little is known about the identity of the tegument proteins that are associated with capsids in the nucleus or the molecular mechanisms involved in the nuclear egress of capsids into the cytoplasm, especially for the two human gammaherpesviruses Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), due to a lack of efficient lytic replication systems. Murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV-68) is genetically related to human gammaherpesviruses and serves as an excellent model to study the de novo lytic replication of gammaherpesviruses. We have previously shown that open reading frame 33 (ORF33) of MHV-68 is a tegument protein of mature virions and is essential for virion assembly and egress. However, it remains unclear how ORF33 is incorporated into virions. In this study, we first show that the endogenous ORF33 protein colocalizes with capsid proteins at discrete areas in the nucleus during viral infection. Cosedimentation analysis as well as an immunoprecipitation assay demonstrated that ORF33 is associated with both nuclear and cytoplasmic capsids. An immunogold labeling experiment using an anti-ORF33 monoclonal antibody revealed that ORF33-rich areas in the nucleus are surrounded by immature capsids. Moreover, ORF33 is associated with nucleocapsids prior to primary envelopment as well as with mature virions in the cytoplasm. Finally, we show that ORF33 interacts with two capsid proteins, suggesting that nucleocapsids may interact with ORF33 in a direct manner. In summary, we identified ORF33 to be a tegument protein that is associated with intranuclear capsids prior to primary envelopment, likely through interacting with capsid proteins in a direct manner. Morphogenesis is an essential step in virus propagation that leads to the generation of progeny virions. For herpesviruses, this is a complicated process that starts in the nucleus. Although the process of capsid assembly and genome packaging is relatively well understood, how capsids acquire tegument (the layer between the capsid and the envelope in a herpesvirus virion) and whether the initial tegumentation process takes place in the nucleus remain unclear. We previously showed that ORF33 of MHV-68 is a tegument protein and functions in both the nuclear egress of capsids and final virion maturation in the cytoplasm. In the present study, we show that ORF33 is associated with intranuclear capsids prior to primary envelopment and identify novel interactions between ORF33 and two capsid proteins. Our work provides new insights into the association between tegument proteins and nucleocapsids at an early stage of the virion maturation process for herpesviruses.

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