Analysis of the interaction between the UL11 and UL16 tegument proteins of herpes simplex virus

Pei Chun Yeh, David G. Meckes, John W. Wills

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The UL11 and UL16 tegument proteins of herpes simplex virus are conserved throughout the herpesvirus family. Previous studies have shown that these proteins interact, perhaps to link UL16-bound nucleocapsids to UL11, which resides on the cytoplasmic face of the trans-Golgi network, where maturation budding occurs. Little is known about the interaction except that it requires the leucine-isoleucine (LI) and acidic cluster motifs in UL11 and that no other viral proteins are involved. In particular, the important question of whether these two proteins bind to each other directly has not been addressed. Accordingly, UL11 and UL16 were expressed in bacteria, and the purified proteins were found to retain the ability to interact in a manner that was dependent upon the LI and acidic cluster. In an attempt to map the UL11-binding site contained in UL16, a large number of deletion mutants were constructed. The first 40 (nonconserved) amino acids were found to be dispensable, but all the other constructs failed to bind UL11 or had poor expression in transfected cells, suggesting that UL16 is very sensitive to alterations and probably lacks a multidomain structure. As an alternative strategy for identifying residues that are important for the interaction, the cysteines of UL16 were investigated, because many of these are highly conserved. Approximately half of the 20 cysteines in UL16 have been shown to be covalently modified by N-ethylmaleimide, and this treatment was found to block the interaction with UL11. Moreover, individual serine replacements of six of the most conserved cysteine residues were made, and four of these disrupted the interaction with UL11 without affecting protein stability. However, the UL11-UL16 interaction does not involve the formation of interspecies disulfide bonds, because binding occurred even when all the cysteines in UL11 were eliminated. Thus, UL16 directly interacts with UL11 and does so in a manner that requires free cysteines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10693-10700
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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