The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV) maturational proteinase is synthesized as a precursor that undergoes two autoproteolytic cleavages; one at its (M)aturational site, which eliminates its carboxyl 'tail,' and a second at its (R)elease site, which separates the amino proteolytic half of the precursor from its nonproteolytic carboxyl half. In cytomegalovirus (CMV) the proteolytic half of the precursor, called assemblin, undergoes a third cleavage at an (I)nternal site that converts it from a single-chain to a two-chain enzyme that retains activity. The HSV assemblin homolog has no I site and therefore does not form a counterpart two-chain enzyme. In the work reported here we have cloned and expressed HSV sequences that encode mimics of the An and Ac subunits of two-chain CMV assemblin. We show that when these HSV sequences are coexpressed in eukaryotic cells, the resulting subunits associate spontaneously to form an active two-chain enzyme. We also show that the two-chain HSV enzyme, like the natural one-chain form, retains its marked preference for HSV over CMV substrates, and that intertypic recombinant two-chain assemblin (e.g., HSV An/CMV Ac) does not form because the cross-species subunits do not interact. We conclude from these results that (i) there are not intrinsic structural differences in the HSV assemblin homolog that preclude its functioning as a CMV-like two-chain enzyme, (ii) the substrate selectivity shown by the single-chain HSV enzyme was not noticeably relaxed in the HSV two-chain mimic, and (iii) the interactive domains, through which the An and Ac portions of the single-chain enzymes associate, differ between HSV and CMV.
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