During the nuclear export of nascent nucleocapsids of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), the nucleocapsids acquire a primary envelope by budding through the inner nuclear membrane into the perinuclear space between the inner and outer nuclear membranes. This unique budding process, termed primary envelopment, is initiated by the nuclear egress complex (NEC), composed of the HSV-1 UL31 and UL34 proteins. Earlier biochemical approaches have shown that the NEC has an intrinsic ability to vesiculate membranes through the formation of a hexagonal lattice structure. The significance of intrahexamer interactions of the NEC in the primary envelopment of HSV-1-infected cells has been reported. In contrast, the contribution of lattice formation of the NEC hexamer to primary envelopment in HSV-1-infected cells remains to be elucidated. Therefore, we constructed and characterized a recombinant HSV-1 strain carrying an amino acid substitution in a UL31 residue that is an interhexamer contact site for the lattice formation of the NEC hexamer. This mutation was reported to destabilize the interhexamer interactions of the HSV-1 NEC. Here, we demonstrate that the mutation causes the aberrant accumulation of nucleocapsids in the nucleus and reduces viral replication in Vero and HeLa cells. Thus, the ability of HSV-1 to form the hexagonal lattice structure of the NEC was linked to an increase in primary envelopment and viral replication. Our results suggest that the lattice formation of the NEC hexamer has an important role in HSV-1 replication by regulating primary envelopment.IMPORTANCE The scaffolding proteins of several envelope viruses required for virion assembly form high-order lattice structures. However, information on the significance of their lattice formation in infected cells is limited. Herpesviruses acquire envelopes twice during their viral replication. The first envelop acquisition (primary envelopment) is one of the steps in the vesicle-mediated nucleocytoplasmic transport of nascent nucleocapsids, which is unique in biology. HSV-1 NEC, thought to be conserved in all members of the Herpesviridae family, is critical for primary envelopment and was shown to form a hexagonal lattice structure. Here, we investigated the significance of the interhexamer contact site for hexagonal lattice formation of the NEC in HSV-1-infected cells and present evidence suggesting that the lattice formation of the NEC hexamer has an important role in HSV-1 replication by regulating primary envelopment. Our results provide insights into the mechanisms of the envelopment of herpesviruses and other envelope viruses.
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