Enveloped viruses require viral fusion proteins to promote fusion of the viral envelope with a target cell membrane. To drive fusion, these proteins undergo large conformational changes that must occur at the right place and at the right time. Understanding the elements which control the stability of the prefusion state and the initiation of conformational changes is key to understanding the function of these important proteins. The construction of mutations in the fusion protein transmembrane domains (TMDs) or the replacement of these domains with lipid anchors has implicated the TMD in the fusion process. However, the structural and molecular details of the role of the TMD in these fusion events remain unclear. Previously, we demonstrated that isolated paramyxovirus fusion protein TMDs associate in a monomer-trimer equilibrium, using sedimentation equilibrium analytical ultracentrifugation. Using a similar approach, the work presented here indicates that trimeric interactions also occur between the fusion protein TMDs of Ebola virus, influenza virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS CoV), and rabies virus. Our results suggest that TM-TM interactions are important in the fusion protein function of diverse viral families.

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Published in mSphere, v. 3, issue 2, e00047-18, p. 1-6.

Copyright © 2018 Webb et al.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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Supplemental material for this article may be found at https://doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00047-18.