Addition of the drug brefeldin A (BFA) to cells infected by herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 is known to result in a complex pattern of defects in particle assembly. BFA-treated, infected cells accumulate perinuclear enveloped virions and non-enveloped ('naked') cytoplasmic capsids, and it has been difficult to interpret these data in terms of the assembly pathway of HSV and the known effects of BFA on the secretory apparatus. Since BFA is a cytotoxic drug, and earlier studies commonly examined the effects of long-term BFA incubations on infected cells, it was hypothesized that the drug could have pleiotropic and indirect effects on HSV assembly. To test this, use was made of an HSV synchronized assembly assay, in which cells are infected with the virus mutant tsProt.A and maintained at 39 °C to induce reversible accumulation of a population of procapsids. By first adding BFA and then shifting these cells to 31 °C for 3 h to allow the accumulated procapsids to mature, it was possible to test the effect of short-term BFA treatment on only those HSV assembly events that are downstream of procapsid maturation. Under these conditions, it was found that procapsids matured and packaged the viral genome normally, but remained non-enveloped and failed to exit the nucleus. It is concluded that the primary effect of BFA on HSV replication is to inhibit budding at the inner nuclear membrane.
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