The contributions of the glycoproteins gI (ORF67) and gE (ORF68) to varicella-zoster virus (VZV) replication were investigated in deletion mutants made by using cosmids with VZV DNA derived from the Oka strain. Deletion of both gI and gE prevented virus replication. Complete deletion of gI or deletions of 60% of the N terminus or 40% of the C terminus of gI resulted in a small plaque phenotype as well as reduced yields of infectious virus. Melanoma cells infected with gI deletion mutants formed abnormal polykaryocytes with a disrupted organization of nuclei. In the absence of intact gI, gE became localized in patches on the cell membrane, as demonstrated by confocal microscopy. A truncated N-terminal form of gI was transported to the cell surface, but its expression did not restore plaque morphology or infectivity. The fusogenic function of gH did not compensate for gI deletion or the associated disruption of the gE-gI complex. These experiments demonstrated that gI was dispensable for VZV replication in vitro, whereas gE appeared to be required. Although VZV gI was dispensable, its deletion or mutation resulted in a significant decrease in infectious virus yields, disrupted syncytium formation, and altered the conformation and distribution of gE in infected cells. Normal cell-to-cell spread and replication kinetics were restored when gI was expressed from a nonnative locus in the VZV genome. The expression of intact gI, the ORF67 gene product, is required for efficient membrane fusion during VZV replication.
View details for Web of Science ID A1997YB14300024
View details for PubMedID 9343180