Generation and characterization of monoclonal antibodies specific for the Pseudorabies Virus nuclear egress complex
During herpesvirus replication, newly synthesized nucleocapsids exit the nucleus by a vesicle-mediated transport, which requires the nuclear egress complex (NEC), composed of the conserved viral proteins designated as pUL31 and pUL34 in the alphaherpesviruses pseudorabies virus (PrV) and herpes simplex viruses. Oligomerization of the heterodimeric NEC at the inner nuclear membrane (INM) results in membrane bending and budding of virus particles into the perinuclear space. The INM-derived primary envelope then fuses with the outer nuclear membrane to release nucleocapsids into the cytoplasm. The two NEC components are necessary and sufficient for induction of vesicle budding and scission as shown after co-expression in eukaryotic cells or in synthetic membranes. However, where and when the NEC is formed, how membrane curvature is mediated and how it is regulated, remains unclear. While monospecific antisera raised against the different components of the PrV NEC aided in the characterization and intracellular localization of the individual proteins, no NEC specific tools have been described yet for any herpesvirus. To gain more insight into vesicle budding and scission, we aimed at generating NEC specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). To this end, mice were immunized with bacterially expressed soluble PrV NEC, which was previously used for structure determination. Besides pUL31- and pUL34-specific mAbs, we also identified mAbs, which reacted only in the presence of both proteins indicating specificity for the complex. Confocal microscopy with those NEC-specific mAbs revealed small puncta (approx. 0.064 µm2) along the nuclear rim in PrV wild type infected cells. In contrast, ca. 5-fold larger speckles (approx. 0.35 µm2) were detectable in cells infected with a PrV mutant lacking the viral protein kinase pUS3, which is known to accumulate primary enveloped virions in the PNS within large invaginations of the INM, or in cells co-expressing pUL31 and pUL34. Kinetic experiments showed that while the individual proteins were detectable already between 2 to 4 hours after infection, the NEC-specific mAbs produced significant staining only after 4 to 6 hours in accordance with timing of nuclear egress. Taken together, the data indicate that these mAbs specifically label the PrV NEC.
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