The mechanism by which human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) enters cells is unknown. We sought evidence that protein phosphorylation plays a role in HCMV infection in two ways: (1) by determining whether the degree of phosphorylation of a constitutively phosphorylated 92.5 kDa putative cell membrane receptor for HCMV gH is changed following exposure to HCMV or monoclonal anti-idiotype antibodies (MAb) that antigenically mimic HCMV gH, and (2) by studying the effects of protein kinase inhibition on receptor phosphorylation and HCMV adsorption or fusion. Phosphorylation of the 92.5 kDa cell membrane protein was specifically increased within 10 min of incubation with HCMV or MAb that had been crosslinked by goat anti-mouse antibodies. In addition, fusion of viral envelope with the cell membrane was inhibited by certain protein kinase inhibitors which also inhibited receptor phosphorylation, while the adsorption of [H]HCMV to human embryonic lung cells was not affected. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors inhibited virus/cell fusion to a greater extent than protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitors, and an inhibitor which primarily affects cAMP and cGMP kinases had little effect. In addition, fusion was stimulated by preincubating cells with agents that stimulated receptor phosphorylation including a phorbol ester, tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor and serine/threonine phosphatase inhibitor. These data indicate that increased phosphorylation of a 92.5 kDa putative cell membrane protein receptor for gH is an early event in response to HCMV, and that cell protein phosphorylation by tyrosine kinase(s) and PKC may facilitate HCMV/cell membrane fusion.


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