The E3/19K protein of human adenovirus type 2 is a resident of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Immediately after synthesis, it associates with major histocompatibility complex class I antigens and prevents their intracellular transport and cell surface expression. We have generated several C-terminal deletion mutants of the E3/19K protein that are preterminated at various positions on both sides of the membrane-spanning segment of the protein. One of these mutants is terminated at the luminal side of the membrane (M310), and two are terminated in the hydrophobic segment (M374 and M392), whereas mutant M621 is terminated on the cytoplasmic side of the ER membrane. The M310, M374, and M392 mutants are soluble proteins. They do not associate with HLA antigens in transfected 293 cells, and they are, to some extent, secreted into the medium. The M621 mutant protein is integrated in the ER membrane, associates immediately after its synthesis with HLA antigens, and exits from the ER. By using either an in vitro translation system supplemented with microsomes or overexpression in insect cells, we showed that M374 and E3/19K are able to associate with HLA antigens. These results indicate that the conformation of the luminal part of the E3/19K protein is not grossly altered by the mutations. Rapid transport of the M374 mutant out of the ER and partial degradation of this protein may prevent the interaction with HLA class I antigens in transfected 293 cells
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