Palmitoylation strengthens cholesterol-dependent multimerization and fusion activity of human cytomegalovirus glycoprotein B (Gb)

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Abstract

Herpesviruses are a large order of animal enveloped viruses displaying a virion fusion mechanism of unusual complexity. Their multipartite machinery has a conserved core made of the gH/gL ancillary complexes and the homo-trimeric fusion protein glycoprotein B (gB). Despite its essential role in starting the viral infection, gB interaction with membrane lipids is still poorly understood. Here, evidence is provided demonstrating that human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) gB depends on the S-palmitoylation of its endodomain for an efficient interaction with cholesterol-rich membrane patches. We found that, unique among herpesviral gB proteins, the HCMV fusion factor has a Cys residue in the C-terminal region that is palmitoylated and mediates methyl-cyclodextrin-sensitive self-association of purified gB. A cholesterol-dependent virus-like particle trap assay, based on co-expression of the HIV Gag protein, confirmed that this post-translational modification is functional in the context of cellular membranes. Mutation of the palmitoylated Cys residue to Ala or inhibition of protein palmitoylation decreased HCMV gB export via Gag particles. Moreover, purified gBC777Ashowed an increased kinetic sensitivity in a cholesterol depletion test, demonstrating that palmitoyl-gB limits outward cholesterol diffusion. Finally, gB palmitoylation was required for full fusogenic activity in human epithelial cells. Altogether, these results uncover the palmitoylation of HCMV gB and its role in gB multimerization and activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4711-4722
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Volume291
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2016

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