Glycoprotein gB is the most highly conserved glycoprotein in the herpesvirus family and plays a critical role in virus entry and fusion. Glycoprotein gB of herpes simplex virus type 1 contains a hydrophobic stretch of 69 aa near the carboxy terminus that is essential for its biological activity. To determine the role(s) of specific amino acids in the carboxy-terminal hydrophobic region, a number of amino acids were mutagenized that are highly conserved in this region within the gB homologues of the family
Herpesviridae. Three conserved residues in the membrane anchor domain, namely A786, A790 and A791, as well as amino acids G743, G746, G766, G770 and P774, that are non-variant in Herpesviridae, were mutagenized. The ability of the mutant proteins to rescue the infectivity of the gB-null virus, K082, in transwas measured by a complementation assay. All of the mutant proteins formed dimers and were incorporated in virion particles produced in the complementation assay. Mutants G746N, G766N, F770S and P774L showed negligible complementation of K082, whereas mutant G743R showed a reduced activity. Virion particles containing these four mutant glycoproteins also showed a markedly reduced rate of entry compared to the wild-type. The results suggest that non-variant residues in the carboxy-terminal hydrophobic region of the gB protein may be important in virus infectivity.