Alphaherpesviruses spread rapidly through dermal tissues and within synaptically connected neuronal circuitry. Spread of virus particles in epithelial tissues involves movement across cell junctions. Herpes simplex virus (HSV), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), and pseudorabies virus (PRV) all utilize a complex of two glycoproteins, gE and gI, to move from cell to cell. HSV gE/gI appears to function primarily, if not exclusively, in polarized cells such as epithelial cells and neurons and not in nonpolarized cells or cells that form less extensive cell junctions. Here, we show that HSV particles are specifically sorted to cell junctions and few virions reach the apical surfaces of polarized epithelial cells. gE/gI participates in this sorting. Mutant HSV virions lacking gE or just the cytoplasmic domain of gE were rarely found at cell junctions; instead, they were found on apical surfaces and in cell culture fluids and accumulated in the cytoplasm. A component of the AP-1 clathrin adapter complexes, μ1B, that is involved in sorting of proteins to basolateral surfaces was involved in targeting of PRV particles to lateral surfaces. These results are related to recent observations that (i) HSV gE/gI localizes specifically to the trans-Golgi network (TGN) during early phases of infection but moves out to cell junctions at intermediate to late times (T. McMillan and D. C. Johnson, J. Virol., in press) and (ii) PRV gE/gI participates in envelopment of nucleocapsids into cytoplasmic membrane vesicles (A. R. Brack, B. G. Klupp, H. Granzow, R. Tirabassi, L. W. Enquist, and T. C. Mettenleiter, J. Virol. 74:4004-4016, 2000). Therefore, interactions between the cytoplasmic domains of gE/gI and the AP-1 cellular sorting machinery cause glycoprotein accumulation and envelopment into specific TGN compartments that are sorted to lateral cell surfaces. Delivery of virus particles to cell junctions would be expected to enhance virus spread and enable viruses to avoid host immune defenses.
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