Glycoprotein H/glycoprotein L (gH/gL) complexes of herpesviruses are required for fusion of infecting virions with host cell membranes. In human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAb) specific for gH inhibit the transfer of a fluorescent probe to the host cell from labelled virus particles. In similar fashion, in the present study, neutralizing gH-specific MAb inhibited HCMV-induced fusion-from-without in monolayers of both human embryonic fibroblasts and continuous astrocytoma cells (U373). No fusion was detected in cells co-infected with defective recombinant adenovirus vectors that elicited high-level expression of gH and gL, indicating that surface-expressed gH was not intrinsically fusogenic. However, when such cells were superinfected with HCMV that gave fusion-from-without, the resulting cell-to-cell fusion was considerably enhanced. Thus, under our experimental conditions, gH/gL on the cell surface functioned to increase membrane fusion once this was initiated by other components in the virus envelope.


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