The duplication of the poxvirus double-stranded DNA genome occurs in cytoplasmic membrane-delimited factories. This physical autonomy from the host nucleus suggests that poxvirus genomes encode the full repertoire of proteins committed for genome replication. Biochemical and genetic analyses have confirmed that six viral proteins are required for efficient DNA synthesis; indirect evidence has suggested that the multifunctional H5 protein may also have a role. Here we show that H5 localizes to replication factories, as visualized by immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopy, and can be retrieved upon purification of the viral polymerase holoenzyme complex. The temperature-sensitive (ts) mutant Dts57, which was generated by chemical mutagenesis and has a lesion in H5, exhibits defects in DNA replication and morphogenesis under nonpermissive conditions, depending upon the experimental protocol. The H5 variant encoded by the genome of this mutant is ts for function but not stability. For a more precise investigation of how H5 contributes to DNA synthesis, we placed the ts57 H5 allele in an otherwise wild-type viral background and also performed small interfering RNA-mediated depletion of H5. Finally, we generated a complementing cell line, CV-1-H5, which allowed us to generate a viral recombinant in which the H5 open reading frame was deleted and replaced with mCherry (vΔH5). Analysis of vΔH5 allowed us to demonstrate conclusively that viral DNA replication is abrogated in the absence of H5. The loss of H5 does not compromise the accumulation of other early viral replication proteins or the uncoating of the virion core, suggesting that H5 plays a direct and essential role in facilitating DNA synthesis.
Importance: Variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox, is the most notorious member of the Poxviridae family. Poxviruses are unique among DNA viruses that infect mammalian cells, in that their replication is restricted to the cytoplasm of the cell. This physical autonomy from the nucleus has both cell biological and genetic ramifications. Poxviruses must establish cytoplasmic niches that support replication, and the genomes must encode the repertoire of proteins necessary for genome synthesis. Here we focus on H5, a multifunctional and abundant viral protein. We confirm that H5 associates with the DNA polymerase holoenzyme and localizes to the sites of DNA synthesis. By generating an H5-expressing cell line, we were able to isolate a deletion virus that lacks the H5 gene and show definitively that genome synthesis does not occur in the absence of H5. These data support the hypothesis that H5 is a crucial participant in cytoplasmic poxvirus genome replication.
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