The gene cluster composed of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) open reading frame 9 (ORF9) to ORF12 encodes four putative tegument proteins and is highly conserved in most alphaherpesviruses. In these experiments, the genes within this cluster were deleted from the VZV parent Oka (POKA) individually or in combination, and the consequences for VZV replication were evaluated with cultured cells in vitro and with human skin xenografts in SCID mice in vivo. As has been reported for ORF10, ORF11 and ORF12 were dispensable for VZV replication in melanoma and human embryonic fibroblast cells. In contrast, deletion of ORF9 was incompatible with the recovery of infectious virus. ORF9 localized to the virion tegument and formed complexes with glycoprotein E, which is an essential protein, in VZV-infected cells. Recombinants lacking ORF10 and ORF11 (POKADelta10/11), ORF11 and ORF12 (POKADelta11/12), or ORF10, ORF11 and ORF12 (POKADelta10/11/12) were viable in cultured cells. Their growth kinetics did not differ from those of POKA, and nucleocapsid formation and virion assembly were not disrupted. In addition, these deletion mutants showed no differences compared to POKA in infectivity levels for primary human tonsil T cells. Deletion of ORF12 had no effect on skin infection, whereas replication of POKADelta11, POKADelta10/11, and POKADelta11/12 was severely reduced, and no virus was recovered from skin xenografts inoculated with POKADelta10/11/12. These results indicate that with the exception of ORF9, the individual genes within the ORF9-to-ORF12 gene cluster are dispensable and can be deleted simultaneously without any apparent effect on VZV replication in vitro but that the ORF10-to-ORF12 cluster is essential for VZV virulence in skin in vivo.
View details for DOI 10.1128/JVI.00303-08
View details for Web of Science ID 000256453600015
View details for PubMedID 18400847