Little is known about the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) tegument protein UL88. Large-scale genomic studies have reported disparate results for UL88-null viruses, reporting both no phenotype and a >1-log decrease in virus titers. UL88 has also been reported to interact with UL69 and UL48, but the functional relevance of this interaction is unknown. Here, we report that UL88, which is conserved among different viral strains, is dispensable for production of infectious HCMV virions in multiple HCMV strains and cell types. However, the specific infectivity of HCMV virions suffers in the absence of UL88, as more genomes are required per PFU. This may be a result of altered virion tegument protein composition, as Western blot analysis shows a significant reduction in the tegument levels of pp71, UL47, and UL48 in viruses lacking UL88. While an interaction between UL88 and UL48 has previously been reported, we show that UL88 can interact with UL47; however, UL88 does not appear to be part of a stable complex consisting of UL47 and UL48. These findings identify an important role for UL88 in incorporating the viral proteins UL47 and UL48 into the virion tegument layer. IMPORTANCE A better understanding of the role and functions of tegument proteins in HCMV, many of which remain uncharacterized, will contribute to our understanding of the biology of HCMV. The virus has a large genome, greater than 230 kb, and functional annotation of these genes is important for identifying novel targets for improving therapeutic intervention. This study identifies a role for a viral tegument protein with unknown function, UL88, in maintaining the proper tegument composition of HCMV virions. Virions produced in the absence of UL88 exhibit decreased fitness and require more genomes per infectious unit.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science