The ability of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2, respectively) to repress host cell protein synthesis early in infection has been studied extensively and found to involve the activities of the UL41 gene product, the virion-associated host shutoff (vhs) protein. To date, UL41 homologs have been identified in the genomes of three other alphaherpesviruses: equine herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1), varicella-zoster virus, and pseudorabies virus, but very little is known about the putative products of these homologous genes. Our earlier observations that no rapid early host protein shutoff occurred in EHV-1-infected cells led us to test EHV-1 vhs activity more thoroughly and to examine the expression and function of the EHV-1 UL41 homolog, ORF19. In the present study, the effects of EHV-1 and HSV-1 infections on cellular protein synthesis and mRNA degradation were compared at various multiplicities of infection in several cell types under an actinomycin D block. No virion-associated inhibition of cellular protein synthesis or vhs-induced cellular mRNA degradation was detected in cells infected with any of three EHV-1 strains (Ab4, KyA, and KyD) at multiplicities of infection at which HSV-1 strain F exhibited maximal vhs activity. However, further analyses revealed that (i) the EHV-1 vhs homolog gene, ORF19, was transcribed and translated into a 58-kDa protein in infected cells; (ii) the ORF19 protein was packaged into viral particles in amounts detectable in Western blots (immunoblots) with monoclonal antibodies; (iii) in cotransfection vhs activity assays, transiently-expressed ORF19 protein had intrinsic vhs activity comparable to that of wild-type HSV-1 vhs; and (iv) this intrinsic vhs activity was ablated by in vitro site-directed mutations in which either the functionally inactive HSV-1 vhs1 UL41 mutation (Thr at position 214 replaced by Ile [Thr-214-->Ile]) was recreated within ORF19 or two conserved residues within the putative poly(A) binding region of the ORF19 sequence were altered (Tyr-190, 192-->Phe). From these results we conclude that EHV-1's low vhs activity in infected cells is not a reflection of the ORF19 protein's intrinsic vhs activity but may be due instead to the amount of ORF19 protein associated with viral particles or to modulation of ORF19 protein's intrinsic activity by another viral component(s)
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