Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is mediated by several viral envelope glycoproteins. We have assessed gp110's functions during the virus life cycle using a mutant that lacks BALF4 (ΔBALF4). Exposure of various cell lines and primary cell samples of epithelial or lymphoid lineages to the ΔBALF4 mutant failed to establish stable infections. The ΔBALF4 virus, however, did not differ from wild-type EBV in its ability to bind and become internalized into primary B cells, in which it elicited a potent T-cell-specific immune reaction against virion constituents. These findings show that ΔBALF4 viruses can reach the endosome-lysosome compartment and dovetail nicely with the previously identified contribution of gp110 to virus-cell fusion. Other essential steps of the virus life cycle were unaffected in the viral mutant; DNA lytic replication and viral titers were not altered in the absence of gp110, and ΔBALF4 viruses complemented in trans transformed infected B cells with an efficiency indistinguishable from that observed with wild-type viruses. All of the steps of virus maturation could be observed in lytically induced 293/ΔBALF4 cells. Induction of lymphoblastoid cells generated with transiently complemented ΔBALF4 virus led to the production of rare mature virions. We therefore infer that gp110 is not required for virus maturation and egress in 293 cells or in B cells. The ΔBALF4 virus's phenotypic traits, an inability to infect human cells coupled with potent antigenicity, potentially qualify this mutant as a live vaccine. It will provide a useful tool for the detailed study of EBV-cell interactions in a physiological context
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