Equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) gene 71 encodes a heavily -glycosylated 192 kDa protein with no identified herpesvirus homologue. Isolation of a deletion mutant in gene 71 (ED71) demonstrated that its protein product is not essential . To investigate the role of the gene 71 protein in the virus life cycle, ED71 has been characterized in terms of cellular adsorption, penetration, egress and transmission compared to wildtype and revertant virus. ED71 virions adsorbed to cells less efficiently than wild-type and revertant virus with a consequential effect on virus penetration; virus egress was significantly impaired and the timing of release was also delayed. The percentage of both full and empty capsids accumulating in the nuclei of ED71-infected cells was significantly higher than in wild-type virus-infected cells but the most notable differences were the low number of particles and the low ratio of enveloped to unenveloped capsids in the cytoplasm. The primary mode of transmission of the mutant virus is by direct cell-to-cell spread and the fact that a neutralizing antiserum did not reduce ED71 plaque size, supported the conclusion that deletion of gene 71 impairs the ability of virus to spread via release and readsorption to uninfected cells. Thus, deletion of EHV-1 gene 71 results in a defect in virus maturation and capsid envelopment. Progeny virus is consequently impaired in adsorption/penetration presumably due to the particles lacking the glycoprotein spikes predicted to be encoded by this gene and hence spreads by direct cell-to-cell contact.


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