Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Maier O, Sollars PJ, Pickard GE, Smith GA. 2016. Visualizing herpesvirus procapsids in living cells. J Virol 90:10182–10192. doi:10.1128/JVI.01437-16.


Copyright © 2016, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.


A complete understanding of herpesvirus morphogenesis requires studies of capsid assembly dynamics in living cells. Although fluorescent tags fused to the VP26 and pUL25 capsid proteins are available, neither of these components is present on the initial capsid assembly, the procapsid. To make procapsids accessible to live-cell imaging, we made a series of recombinant pseudorabies viruses that encoded green fluorescent protein (GFP) fused in frame to the internal capsid scaffold and maturation protease. One recombinant, a GFP-VP24 fusion, maintained wild-type propagation kinetics in vitro and approximated wild-type virulence in vivo. The fusion also proved to be well tolerated in herpes simplex virus. Viruses encoding GFP-VP24, along with a traditional capsid reporter fusion (pUL25/mCherry), demonstrated that GFP-VP24 was a reliable capsid marker and revealed that the protein remained capsid associated following entry into cells and upon nuclear docking. These dual-fluorescent viruses made possible the discrimination of procapsids during infection and monitoring of capsid shell maturation kinetics. The results demonstrate the feasibility of imaging herpesvirus procapsids and their morphogenesis in living cells and indicate that the encapsidation machinery does not substantially help coordinate capsid shell maturation.