African Swine Fever Virus Gene B117L Encodes a Small Protein Endowed with Low-pH-Dependent Membrane Permeabilizing Activity

J Virol. 2023 Jun 29;97(6):e0035023. doi: 10.1128/jvi.00350-23. Epub 2023 May 22.


African swine fever virus (ASFV) is causing a devastating pandemic in domestic and wild swine in Central Europe to East Asia, resulting in economic losses for the swine industry. The virus contains a large double-stranded DNA genome that contains more than 150 genes, most with no experimentally characterized function. In this study, we evaluate the potential function of the product of ASFV gene B117L, a 115-amino-acid integral membrane protein transcribed at late times during the virus replication cycle and showing no homology to any previously published protein. Hydrophobicity distribution along B117L confirmed the presence of a single transmembrane helix, which, in combination with flanking amphipathic sequences, composes a potential membrane-associated C-terminal domain of ca. 50 amino acids. Ectopic transient cell expression of the B117L gene as a green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion protein revealed the colocalization with markers of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Intracellular localization of various B117L constructs also displayed a pattern for the formation of organized smooth ER (OSER) structures compatible with the presence of a single transmembrane helix with a cytoplasmic carboxy terminus. Using partially overlapping peptides, we further demonstrated that the B117L transmembrane helix has the capacity to establish spores and ion channels in membranes at low pH. Furthermore, our evolutionary analysis showed the high conservation of the transmembrane domain during the evolution of the B117L gene, indicating that the integrity of this domain is preserved by the action of the purifying selection. Collectively our data support a viroporin-like assistant role for the B117L gene-encoded product in ASFV entry. IMPORTANCE ASFV is responsible for an extensively distributed pandemic causing important economic losses in the pork industry in Eurasia. The development of countermeasures is partially limited by the insufficient knowledge regarding the function of the majority of the more than 150 genes present on the virus genome. Here, we provide data regarding the functional experimental evaluation of a previously uncharacterized ASFV gene, B117L. Our data suggest that the B117L gene encodes a small membrane protein that assists in the permeabilization of the ER-derived envelope during ASFV infection.

Keywords: ASFV; B117L; viroporin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • African Swine Fever / virology
  • African Swine Fever Virus* / genetics
  • African Swine Fever Virus* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane Permeability* / genetics
  • Genome, Viral
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Membrane Proteins* / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins* / metabolism
  • Swine
  • Viral Proteins* / genetics
  • Viral Proteins* / metabolism
  • Virus Internalization*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Viral Proteins