Glycoprotein H (gH) of pseudorabies virus (PrV) is a structural component of the virion and forms a complex with another glycoprotein, gL. For a detailed analysis of the function of PrV gH, we isolated a gH-deficient mutant on trans-complementing gH-expressing cells after insertion of a β-galactosidase expression cassette into a partially deleted gH gene. The absence of gH did not affect primary or secondary attachment of PrV but the mutant was not infectious. The defect in infectivity could partially be overcome by experimentally induced membrane fusion using PEG, which suggests that gH was necessary for fusion between virion and cellular membranes. After intranasal inoculation into mice, the LD of complemented gH PrV was more than four orders of magnitude higher than that of wild-type PrV. Infection of the respiratory epithelium was much less efficient with complemented gH PrV as compared with rescued PrV, reflecting the lack of direct cell-to-cell spread. Complemented gH PrV was able to penetrate into a few trigeminal and sympathetic first order neurons accessible from the nasal cavity, whereas transneuronal transfer in the second order neurons was not observed. In summary, gH is essential for entry and cell-to-cell spread in cell culture, and for propagation in the nervous system of mice. This substantiates the hypothesis that transneuronal spread and direct cell-to-cell spread in cell culture are governed by similar mechanisms.


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