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A Genome-Wide CRISPR/Cas9 Screen Reveals the Requirement of Host Sphingomyelin Synthase 1 for Infection with Pseudorabies Virus Mutant gD–Pass

Herpesviruses are large DNA viruses, which encode up to 300 different proteins including enzymes enabling efficient replication. Nevertheless, they depend on a multitude of host cell proteins for successful propagation. To uncover cellular host factors important for replication of pseudorabies virus (PrV), an alphaherpesvirus of swine, we performed an unbiased genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 forward screen. To this end, a porcine CRISPR-knockout sgRNA library (SsCRISPRko.v1) targeting 20,598 genes was generated and used to transduce porcine kidney cells. Cells were then infected with either wildtype PrV (PrV-Ka) or a PrV mutant (PrV-gD–Pass) lacking the receptor-binding protein gD, which regained infectivity after serial passaging in cell culture. While no cells survived infection with PrV-Ka, resistant cell colonies were observed after infection with PrV-gD–Pass. In these cells, sphingomyelin synthase 1 (SMS1) was identified as the top hit candidate. Infection efficiency was reduced by up to 90% for PrV-gD–Pass in rabbit RK13-sgms1KO cells compared to wildtype cells accompanied by lower viral progeny titers. Exogenous expression of SMS1 partly reverted the entry defect of PrV-gD–Pass. In contrast, infectivity of PrV-Ka was reduced by 50% on the knockout cells, which could not be restored by exogenous expression of SMS1. These data suggest that SMS1 plays a pivotal role for PrV infection, when the gD-mediated entry pathway is blocked.



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