Herpesviral capsid assembly is initiated in the nucleoplasm of the infected cell. Size constraints require that newly formed viral nucleocapsids leave the nucleus by an evolutionarily conserved vescular transport mechanism called nuclear egress. Mature capsids released from the nucleoplasm are engaged in a membrane-mediated budding process, composed of primary envelopment at the inner nuclear membrane and de-envelopment at the outer nuclear membrane. Once in the cytoplasm, the capsids receive their secondary envelope for maturation into infectious virions. Two viral proteins conserved throughout the herpesvirus family, the integral membrane protein pUL34 and the phosphoprotein pUL31, form the nuclear egress complex required for capsid transport from the infected nucleus to the cytoplasm. Formation of the nuclear egress complex results in budding of membrane vesicles revealing its function as minimal virus-encoded membrane budding and scission machinery. The recent structural analysis unraveled details of the heterodimeric nuclear egress complex and the hexagonal coat it forms at the inside of budding vesicles to drive primary envelopment. With this review, I would like to present the capsid-escort-model where pUL31 associates with capsids in nucleoplasmic replication compartments for escort to sites of primary envelopment thereby coupling capsid maturation and nuclear egress.
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