The pseudorabies virus US3 protein is a component of primary and of mature virions
Herpesviruses acquire a primary envelope by budding of capsids at the inner leaflet of the nuclear membrane. They then traverse into the cytoplasm after fusion of the primary envelope with the outer leaflet of the nuclear membrane. In the alphaherpesvirus pseudorabies virus (PrV), the latter process is impaired when the US3 protein is absent. Acquisition of final tegument and envelope occurs in the cytoplasm. Besides the capsid components, only the UL31 and UL34 gene products of PrV have unequivocally been shown to be part of primary enveloped virions, whereas they lack several tegument proteins present in mature virions (reviewed by T. C. Mettenleiter, J. Virol. 76:1537-1547, 2002). Using immunoelectron microscopy, we show that the US3 protein is present in primary enveloped as well as in mature virions. It is also detectable in intracytoplasmic inclusions produced in the absence of other viral tegument components or envelope-associated glycoproteins. In particular, inclusions formed in the absence of the inner tegument protein UL37 contained the US3 protein. Thus, the US3 protein is a tegument component of both forms of enveloped alphaherpes virions. We hypothesize that US3 protein in primary virions modulates deenvelopment at the outer leaflet of the nuclear membrane and is either lost from primary virions during nuclear egress and subsequently reacquired early during tegumentation or is retained during transit of the nucleocapsid through the nuclear membrane.