Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a master immune regulator, encoding multiple proteins that modulate a variety of immune signalling pathways. We previously performed a systematic proteomic analysis of temporal changes in host and viral proteins throughout the course of infection and determined that HCMV downregulates >900 host proteins. HCMV is the largest human herpesvirus, potentially encoding hundreds of ORFs. Identification of which individual gene targets a given cellular factor can therefore be challenging. To facilitate the mapping of viral gene functions, we employed a panel of HCMV mutants, each deleted in contiguous gene blocks dispensable for virus replication in vitro. Three proteomic screens of these mutants were performed, with each mutant represented in at least duplicate. From these data we have defined the genetic loci responsible for targeting >250 host proteins. Bioinformatic enrichment analysis on the targets of each mutant virus enabled attribution of novel functions to blocks of uncharacterised genes. Our approach was validated from analysis of the US1-11 genetic locus, which confirmed that the major function of US1-11 genes is the regulation of MHC class I molecules and other cell surface receptors. The data also suggests that the major functions of the poorly characterised blocks RL1-6 and US29-34A are the regulation of secreted proteins and the regulation of a family of cell surface adhesion molecules respectively. Overall this approach can be used to gain global insights into HCMV gene function, the study of which has previously been only been possible on a single gene basis.

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