Journal of Virology
Enveloped viruses utilize the membranous compartments of the host cell for the assembly and budding of new virion particles. In this report, we have investigated the biogenesis and trafficking of the envelope glycoprotein (GP-Q of the Junin arenavirus. The mature GP-C complex is unusual in that it retains a stable signal peptide (SSP) as an essential component in association with the typical receptor-binding (G1) and transmembrane fusion (G2) subunits. We demonstrate that, in the absence of SSP, the G1-G2 precursor is restricted to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). This constraint is relieved by coexpression of SSP in trans, allowing transit of the assembled GP-C complex through the Golgi and to the cell surface, the site of arenavirus budding. Transport of a chimeric CD4 glycoprotein bearing the transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains of G2 is similarly regulated by SSP association. Truncations to the cytoplasmic domain of G2 abrogate SSP association yet now permit transport of the G1-G2 precursor to the cell surface. Thus, the cytoplasmic domain of G2 is an important determinant for both ER localization and its control through SSP binding. Alanine mutations to either of two dibasic amino acid motifs in the G2 cytoplasmic domain can also mobilize the G1-G2 precursor for transit through the Golgi. Taken together, our results suggest that SSP binding masks endogenous ER localization signals in the cytoplasmic domain of G2 to ensure that only the fully assembled, tripartite GP-C complex is transported for virion assembly. This quality control process points to an important role of SSP in the structure and function of the arenavirus envelope glycoprotein..