- Enveloped animal viruses enter host cells either by direct fusion at neutral pH or by endocytosis. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is believed to fuse with the plasma membrane of cells at neutral pH, and the glycoproteins gB and gD have been implicated in virus entry and cell fusion. Using cloned gB or gD genes, we show that cells expressing HSV-1 glycoproteins gB or gD can undergo fusion to form polykaryons by exposure only to acidic pH. The low pH-induced cell fusion was blocked in the presence of monoclonal antibodies specific to the glycoproteins. Infection of cells expressing gB or gD glycoproteins with HSV-1 inhibited the low pH-induced cell fusion. The results suggest that although the glycoproteins gB and gD possess fusogenic activity at acidic pH, other HSV proteins may regulate it such that in the virus-infected cell, this fusion activity is blocked.