Reevaluating herpes simplex virus hemifusion

Julia O. Jackson, Richard Longnecker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Membrane fusion induced by enveloped viruses proceeds through the actions of viral fusion proteins. Once activated, viral fusion proteins undergo large protein conformational changes to execute membrane fusion. Fusion is thought to proceed through a "hemifusion" intermediate in which the outer membrane leaflets of target and viral membranes mix (lipid mixing) prior to fusion pore formation, enlargement, and completion of fusion. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) requires four glycoproteins - glycoprotein D (gD), glycoprotein B (gB), and a heterodimer of glycoprotein H and L (gH/gL) - to accomplish fusion. gD is primarily thought of as a receptor-binding protein and gB as a fusion protein. The role of gH/gL in fusion has remained enigmatic. Despite experimental evidence that gH/gL may be a fusion protein capable of inducing hemifusion in the absence of gB, the recently solved crystal structure of HSV-2 gH/gL has no structural homology to any known viral fusion protein. We found that in our hands, all HSV entry proteins - gD, gB, and gH/gL - were required to observe lipid mixing in both cell-cell- and virus-cell-based hemifusion assays. To verify that our hemifusion assay was capable of detecting hemifusion, we used glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-linked hemagglutinin (HA), a variant of the influenza virus fusion protein, HA, known to stall the fusion process before productive fusion pores are formed. Additionally, we found that a mutant carrying an insertion within the short gH cytoplasmic tail, 824L gH, is incapable of executing hemifusion despite normal cell surface expression. Collectively, our findings suggest that HSV gH/gL may not function as a fusion protein and that all HSV entry glycoproteins are required for both hemifusion and fusion. The previously described gH 824L mutation blocks gH/gL function prior to HSV-induced lipid mixing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11814-11821
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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