A human cytomegalovirus gO-null mutant fails to incorporate gH/gL into the virion envelope and is unable to enter fibroblasts and epithelial and endothelial cells

Paul T. Wille, Amber J. Knoche, Jay Nelson, Michael A. Jarvis, David C. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) depends upon a five-protein complex, gH/gL/UL128-131, to enter epithelial and endothelial cells. A separate HCMV gH/gL-containing complex, gH/gL/gO, has been described. Our prevailing model is that gH/gL/UL128-131 is required for entry into biologically important epithelial and endothelial cells and that gH/gL/gO is required for infection of fibroblasts. Genes encoding UL128-131 are rapidly mutated during laboratory propagation of HCMV on fibroblasts, apparently related to selective pressure for the fibroblast entry pathway. Arguing against this model in the accompanying paper by B. J. Ryckman et al. (J. Virol., 84:2597-2609, 2010), we describe evidence that clinical HCMV strain TR expresses a gO molecule that acts to promote endoplasmic reticulum (ER) export of gH/gL and that gO is not stably incorporated into the virus envelope. This was different from results involving fibroblast-adapted HCMV strain AD169, which incorporates gO into the virion envelope. Here, we constructed a TR gO-null mutant, TRΔgO, that replicated to low titers, spread poorly among fibroblasts, but produced normal quantities of extracellular virus particles. TRΔgO particles released from fibroblasts failed to infect fibroblasts and epithelial and endothelial cells, but the chemical fusogen polyethylene glycol (PEG) could partially overcome defects in infection. Therefore, TRΔgO is defective for entry into all three cell types. Defects in entry were explained by observations showing that TRΔgO incorporated about 5% of the quantities of gH/gL in extracellular virus particles compared with that in wild-type virions. Although TRΔgO particles could not enter cells, cell-to-cell spread involving epithelial and endothelial cells was increased relative to TR, apparently resulting from increased quantities of gH/gL/UL128-131 in virions. Together, our data suggest that TR gO acts as a chaperone to promote ER export and the incorporation of gH/gL complexes into the HCMV envelope. Moreover, these data suggest that it is gH/gL, and not gH/gL/gO, that is present in virions and is required for infection of fibroblasts and epithelial and endothelial cells. Our observations that both gH/gL and gH/gL/UL128-131 are required for entry into epithelial/endothelial cells differ from models for other beta- and gammaherpesviruses that use one of two different gH/gL complexes to enter different cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2585-2596
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'A human cytomegalovirus gO-null mutant fails to incorporate gH/gL into the virion envelope and is unable to enter fibroblasts and epithelial and endothelial cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this