Glycoprotein M (gM), the product of the UL10 gene of pseudorabies virus (PrV), is one of the few nonessential glycoproteins conserved throughout the Herpesviridae. In contrast to wild-type PrV strains, the UL10 gene product of the attenuated PrV vaccine strain Bartha (PrV-Ba) is not modified by N- glycans due to a mutation in the DNA sequence encoding the consensus N- glycosylation motif. To assay function of the UL10 protein in PrV-Ba, a UL10- deletion mutant (PrV-Ba-UL10-) was isolated. Surprisingly, in contrast to gM-deleted wild-type PrV, PrV-Ba-UL10- was severely impaired in plaque formation, inducing only foci of very few infected RK13, Vero, and PSEK cells and tiny plaques on MDBK cells. Since this effect was significantly more dramatic than in wild-type PrV, additional mutations known to be present in PrV-Ba were analyzed for their contribution to this phenotype, trans- complementation of the mutated PrV-Ba UL21 or gC protein by the wild-type version had no influence on the observed phenotype. In contrast, complementation of the gE/gI deletion rescued the phenotype. The synergistic effect of deletions in gE/gI and gM on plaque size was verified by construction of a gE/I/M triple mutant derived from wild-type PrV which exhibited the same phenotype. The dramatic effect of deletion of gM on plaque size in a gE/I- virus background was mainly attributable to a function of gM, and not of the gM/gN complex, as shown by analysis of a gE/I/N triple mutant. Interestingly, despite the strong effect on plaque size, penetration was not significantly impaired. In noncomplementing cells infected with the gE/I/M triple mutant, electron microscopy showed absence of secondary envelopment in the cytoplasm but occurrence of intracytoplasmic accumulations of nucleocapsids in association with electron dense material, presumably tegument proteins. These structures were not observed after infection of cells expressing either gE/I or gM. We suggest that gE/I and gM are required for late stages in virion morphogenesis prior to final envelopment in the cytoplasm.
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