Human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6), like other betaherpesviruses, shows cell fusion with wild-type strains, and this cellular spread is mediated by the glycoprotein gH/gL complex. Anti-fusion monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) specific for HHV-6 glycoprotein gH inhibit infection and prevent cellular spread by syncytia formation. Reactivity of these MAbs with gH deletion mutants suggests a conserved C-terminal fusion-associated domain. A conserved motif here has an N-glycosylation site and characteristics of a beta turn. Motif deletion abrogated MAb recognition while co-expression with glycoprotein gL restored this conformational epitope, indicating the importance of folding and not glycosylation at this site. Our previous studies showed gL binding to gH at an N-terminal domain specific for betaherpesviruses. To further examine the function of this N-terminal domain, a betaherpesvirus-specific motif was deleted. This mutant gH still bound gL, and was recognized by the anti-fusion MAbs; however, recognition was now primarily in the immature form and reduced during processing to the mature form. A model is discussed whereby gL binding gH at the N-terminal domain acts to draw together the C-terminal extracellular domain and this interaction affects a functional conformation during glycoprotein maturation.


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