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Herpesviruses have evolved an array of strategies to counteract antigen presentation by major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I). Previously, we identified pUL56 of equine herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1) as one major determinant of the downregulation of cell surface MHC-I (G. Ma, S. Feineis, N. Osterrieder, and G. R. Van de Walle, J. Virol. 86:3554-3563, 2012, http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.06994-11; T. Huang, M. J. Lehmann, A. Said, G. Ma, and N. Osterrieder, J. Virol. 88:12802-12815, 2014, http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JVI.02079-14). Since pUL56 was able to exert its function only in the context of virus infection, we hypothesized that pUL56 cooperates with another viral protein. Here, we generated and screened a series of EHV-1 single-gene deletion mutants and found that the pUL43 orthologue was required for downregulation of cell surface MHC-I expression at the same time of infection as when pUL56 exerts its function. We demonstrate that the absence of pUL43 was not deleterious to virus growth and that expression of pUL43 was detectable from 2 h postinfection (p.i.) but decreased after 8 h p.i. due to lysosomal degradation. pUL43 localized within Golgi vesicles and required a unique hydrophilic N-terminal domain to function properly. Finally, coexpression of pUL43 and pUL56 in transfected cells reduced the cell surface expression of MHC-I. This process was dependent on PPxY motifs present in pUL56, suggesting that late domains are required for pUL43- and pUL56-dependent sorting of MHC class I for lysosomal degradation.
We describe here that the poorly characterized herpesviral protein pUL43 is involved in downregulation of cell surface MHC-I. pUL43 is an early protein and degraded in lysosomes. pUL43 resides in the Golgi vesicles and needs an intact N terminus to induce MHC-I downregulation in infected cells. Importantly, pUL43 and pUL56 cooperate to reduce MHC-I expression on the surface of transfected cells. Our results suggest a model for MHC-I downregulation in which late domains in pUL56 are required for the rerouting of vesicles containing MHC-I, pUL56, and pUL43 to the lysosomal compartment.