UL36p (VP1/2) is the largest protein encoded by herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and resides in the innermost layer of the viral tegument, lying between the capsid and the envelope. UL36p performs multiple functions in the HSV life cycle, including an essential role in cytoplasmic envelopment. We earlier described the isolation of a virion-associated cytoplasmic membrane fraction from HSV-infected cells. Biochemical and ultrastructural analyses showed that the organelles in this buoyant fraction contain enveloped infectious HSV particles in their lumens and naked capsids docked to their cytoplasmic surfaces. These organelles can also recruit molecular motors and transport their cargo virions along microtubules in vitro. Here we examine the properties of these HSV-associated organelles in the absence of UL36p. We find that while capsid envelopment is clearly defective, a subpopulation of capsids nevertheless still associate with the cytoplasmic faces of these organelles. The existence of these capsidmembrane structures was confirmed by subcellular fractionation, immunocytochemistry, lipophilic dye fluorescence microscopy, thin-section electron microscopy, and correlative light and electron microscopy. We conclude that capsid-membrane binding can occur in the absence of UL36p and propose that this association may precede the events of UL36p-driven envelopment.
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