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© 2017 American Society for Microbiology. Neurotropism is a defining characteristic of alphaherpesvirus pathogenicity. Glycoprotein K (gK) is a conserved virion glycoprotein of all alphaherpesviruses that is not found in other herpesvirus subfamilies. The extracellular amino terminus of gK has been shown to be important to the ability of the prototypic alphaherpesvirus herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) to enter neurons via axonal termini. Here, we determined the role of the two conserved N-linked glycosylation (N48 and N58) sites of gK in virus-induced cell fusion and replication. We found that N-linked glycosylation is important to the regulation of HSV-1-induced membrane fusion since mutating N58 to alanine (N58A) caused extensive virus-induced cell fusion. Due to the known contributions of N-linked glycosylation to protein processing and correct disulfide bond formation, we investigated whether the conserved extracellular cysteine residues within the amino terminus of gK contributed to the regulation of HSV-1-induced membrane fusion. We found that mutation of C37 and C114 residues led to a gK-null phenotype characterized by very small plaque formation and drastic reduction in infectious virus production, while mutation of C82 and C243 caused extensive virus-induced cell fusion. Comparison of N-linked glycosylation and cysteine mutant replication kinetics identified disparate effects on infectious virion egress from infected cells. Specifically, cysteine mutations caused defects in the accumulation of infectious virus in both the cellular and supernatant fractions, while glycosylation site mutants did not adversely affect virion egress from infected cells. These results demonstrate a critical role for the N glycosylation sites and cysteines for the structure and function of the amino terminus of gK.

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Journal of Virology