Interaction of the influenza hemagglutinin fusion peptide with lipid bilayer



The flu attacks the lungs, nose and throat. Young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with chronic disease or weak immune systems are at high risk.

The NS1 protein is the only nonstructural protein encoded by influenza A virus. It has been proposed that the NS1 performs several regulatory functions during the viral replication cycle, including the regulation of synthesis, transport, splicing, and translation of mRNAs. Through the use of reverse genetics, a viable transfectant influenza A virus (delNS1) which lacks the NS1 gene has been generated. Our results indicate that the NS1 of influenza A virus is an auxiliary (virulence) factor which plays a crucial role in inhibiting interferon-mediated antiviral responses of the host.Fusion is a crucial event in the infection of animal cells by enveloped viruses (e.g., HIV or influenza). Viral fusion is mediated by glycoproteins, spanning the viral envelope, which attach to a membrane surface and induce fusion of the viral envelope to the cellular membrane. Influenza fusion protein (hemagglutinin) contains an amino-terminal segment critical to fusion, referred to as the fusion peptide. We show here that the native fusion peptide (wt-20) of hemagglutinin destabilizes membranes formed of 99% 1 -stearoyl-2-oleoylphosphatidylcholine (SOPC). The first step in destabilization is rapid insertion of the peptide into the membrane, in which membrane area increases by as much as 11% in just seconds. We visualized and quantified the area expansion by using optical video microscopy combined with micropipette aspiration. This rapid membrane area expansion is followed by the formation of membrane defects in the size range of 0.5 nm, and results in membrane rupture. Both the rate of area increase and maximum area increase are significantly higher at a pH near 5.0 compared to pH 7.0. These results suggest that enhanced membrane insertion of wt-20 and accompanying area expansion at pH 5.0 are responsible for the relatively greater lytic activity at this pH. We show that a deletion of the N-terminal glycine of wt-20 results in a lack of area expansion or membrane perturbation at pH 5.0. Fusion between influenza virus and target membranes is mediated by the viral glycoprotein hemagglutinin (HA). Replacement of the transmembrane domain of HA with a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) membrane anchor allows lipid mixing but not the establishment of cytoplasmic continuity. This observation led to the proposal that the fusion mechanism passes through an intermediate stage corresponding to hemi fusion between outer monolayers. We have used confocal fluorescence microscopy to study the movement of probes for specific bilayer leaflets of erythrocytes fusing with HA-expressing cells. N-Rh-PE and NBD-PC were used for specific labelling of the outer and inner membrane leaflet, respectively. In the case of GPI-HA-induced fusion, different behaviours of lipid transfer were observed, which include 1) exclusive movement of N-Rh-PE (hemi fusion), 2) preferential movement of N-Rh-PE relative to NBD-PC, and 3) equal movement of both lipid analogues. The relative population of these intermediate states was dependent on the time after application of a low pH trigger for fusion. At early time points, hemi fusion was more common and full redistribution of both bilayers was rare, whereas later full redistribution of both probes was frequently observed.

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