Structure-function dissection of the Pseudorabies virus glycoprotein B fusion loops
Conserved across the Herpesviridae family, glycoprotein B (gB) is responsible for driving fusion of the viral envelope with the host cell membrane for entry upon receptor binding and activation by the viral gH/gL complex. Although crystal structures of the gB ectodomain of several herpesviruses have been reported, the membrane fusion mechanism has remained elusive. Here, we report the X-ray structure of the Pseudorabies virus (PrV) gB ectodomain, revealing a typical class III post-fusion trimer that binds membranes via its fusion loops (FLs) in a cholesterol-dependent manner. Mutagenesis of FL residues allowed us to dissect those interacting with distinct sub-regions of the lipid bilayer and their role for membrane interactions. We tested 15 gB variants for their ability to bind to liposomes, and further investigated a subset of them in functional assays. We found that PrV gB FL residues Trp187, Tyr192, Phe275 and Tyr276, which were essential for liposome binding and for fusion in a cellular and viral context, form a continuous hydrophobic patch at the gB trimer surface. Together with reported results from other alpha-herpesvirus gBs, our data suggest a model in which Phe275 from the tip of FL2 protrudes deeper into the hydrocarbon core of the lipid bilayer, while the side chains of Trp187, Tyr192 and Tyr276 form a rim that inserts into the more superficial, interfacial region of the membrane to catalyze the fusion process. Comparative analysis with gB from beta- and gamma-herpesviruses suggest that this membrane-interaction mode is valid for gB from all herpesviruses.