Cryo-Electron Microscopy Structure and Interactions of the Human Cytomegalovirus gHgLgO Trimer with Platelet-Derived Growth Factor Receptor Alpha

Jing Liu, Adam Vanarsdall, Dong Hua Chen, Andrea Chin, David Johnson, Theodore S. Jardetzky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a herpesvirus that produces disease in transplant patients and newborn children. Entry of HCMV into cells relies on gH/ gL trimer (gHgLgO) and pentamer (gHgLUL128–131) complexes that bind cellular receptors. Here, we studied the structure and interactions of the HCMV trimer, formed by AD169 strain gH and gL and TR strain gO proteins, with the human platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRa). Three trimer surfaces make extensive contacts with three PDGFRa N-terminal domains, causing PDGFRa to wrap around gO in a structure similar to a human hand, explaining the high-affinity interaction. gO is among the least conserved HCMV proteins, with 8 distinct genotypes. We observed high conservation of residues mediating gO-gL interactions but more extensive gO variability in the PDGFRa interface. Comparisons between our trimer structure and a previously determined structure composed of different subunit genotypes indicate that gO variability is accommodated by adjustments in the gO-PDGFRa interface. We identified two loops within gO that were disordered and apparently glycosylated, which could be deleted without disrupting PDGFRa binding. We also identified four gO residues that contact PDGFRa, which when mutated produced markedly reduced receptor binding. These residues fall within conserved contact sites of gO with PDGFRa and may represent key targets for anti-trimer neutralizing antibodies and HCMV vaccines. Finally, we observe that gO mutations distant from the gL interaction site impact trimer expression, suggesting that the intrinsic folding or stability of gO can impact the efficiency of trimer assembly. IMPORTANCE HCMV is a herpesvirus that infects a large percentage of the adult population and causes significant levels of disease in immunocompromised individuals and birth defects in the developing fetus. The virus encodes a complex protein machinery that coordinates infection of different cell types in the body, including a trimer formed of gH, gL, and gO subunits. Here, we studied the interactions of the HCMV trimer with its receptor on cells, the platelet derived growth factor receptor a (PDGFRa), to better understand how HCMV coordinates virus entry into cells. Our results add to our understanding of HCMV strain-specific differences and identify sites on the trimer that represent potential targets for therapeutic antibodies or vaccine development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02625-21
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • Cryo-EM
  • HCMV
  • Human cytomegalovirus
  • PDGFRa
  • Pentamer
  • Receptor complex
  • Trimer
  • Virus entry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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