The role of the nuclear polyhedrosis virus p10 gene in viral cytopathology and morphogenesis was examined using classes of p10 deletion mutants with and without (β-galactosidase) gene fusion. Mutant-infected cells did not form the fibrillar cytoplasmic and nuclear structures normally observed late in infection with wild-type (wt) virus, and the cells failed to lyse even at 2 weeks post-infection. Based on wt and mutant cytopathology, we suggest lysis may be facilitated by stepwise exhaustion of the host nuclear membrane, and may require a function resident in the carboxy region of p10; this portion of the molecule is also essential for formation of the p10-rich fibrillar bodies. Additional changes in cytopathology were correlated with the level of p10/LacZ fusion protein expression. The insertional mutant designated Ac229, which encodes 51 N-terminal amino acids of p10 fused to LacZ, caused intranuclear accumulation of granular structures at sites corresponding to the fibrillar bodies of wt viral infections. Occlusion body membranes, which associate with the fibrillar bodies in wt infections, were also formed in mutant virus-infected cells. However, membranes did not associate with occlusion bodies in Ac229 infections, and were aberrantly attached to occlusion bodies in cells infected with mutants having simple p10 deletions (represented by Ac231). Loss of the outer membrane increased sensitivity of the occlusion bodies to disruption by physical stress; a partially attached membrane afforded some protection from disruption.


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