Random transposon-mediated mutagenesis of the essential large tegument protein pUL36 of pseudorabies virus.
Homologs of the pseudorabies virus (PrV) essential large tegument protein pUL36 are conserved throughout the Herpesviridae. pUL36 functions during transport of the nucleocapsid to and docking at the nuclear pore as well as during virion formation after nuclear egress in the cytoplasm. Deletion analyses revealed several nonessential regions within the 3,084-amino-acid PrV pUL36 (S. Böttcher, B. G. Klupp, H. Granzow, W. Fuchs, K. Michael, and T. C. Mettenleiter, J. Virol. 80:9910-9915, 2006; S. Böttcher, H. Granzow, C. Maresch, B. Möhl, B. G. Klupp, and T. C. Mettenleiter, J. Virol. 81:13403-13411, 2007), while the C-terminal 62 amino acids are essential for virus replication (K. Coller, J. Lee, A. Ueda, and G. Smith, J. Virol. 81:11790-11797, 2007). To identify additional functional domains, we performed random mutagenesis of PrV pUL36 by transposon-mediated insertion of a 15-bp linker. By this approach, 26 pUL36 insertion mutants were selected and tested in transient transfection assays for their ability to complement one-step growth and/or viral spread of a PrV UL36 null mutant. Ten insertion mutants in the N-terminal half and 10 in the C terminus complemented both, whereas six insertion mutants clustering in the center of the protein did not complement in either assay. Interestingly, several insertions within conserved parts yielded positive complementation, including those located within the essential C-terminal 62 amino acids. For 15 mutants that mediated productive replication, stable virus recombinants were isolated and further characterized by plaque assay, in vitro growth analysis, and electron microscopy. Except for three mutant viruses, most insertion mutants replicated like wild-type PrV. Two insertion mutants, at amino acids (aa) 597 and 689, were impaired in one-step growth and viral spread and exhibited a defect in virion maturation in the cytoplasm. In contrast, one functional insertion (aa 1800) in a region which otherwise yielded only nonfunctional insertion mutants was impaired in viral spread but not in one-step growth without a distinctive ultrastructural phenotype. In summary, these studies extend and refine previous analyses of PrV pUL36 and demonstrate the different sensitivities of different regions of the protein to functional loss by insertion.