A discrete stage of baculovirus GP64-mediated membrane fusion. Academic Article uri icon


  • Viral fusion protein trimers can play a critical role in limiting lipids in membrane fusion. Because the trimeric oligomer of many viral fusion proteins is often stabilized by hydrophobic 4-3 heptad repeats, higher-order oligomers might be stabilized by similar sequences. There is a hydrophobic 4-3 heptad repeat contiguous to a putative oligomerization domain of Autographa californica multicapsid nucleopolyhedrovirus envelope glycoprotein GP64. We performed mutagenesis and peptide inhibition studies to determine if this sequence might play a role in catalysis of membrane fusion. First, leucine-to-alanine mutants within and flanking the amino terminus of the hydrophobic 4-3 heptad repeat motif that oligomerize into trimers and traffic to insect Sf9 cell surfaces were identified. These mutants retained their wild-type conformation at neutral pH and changed conformation in acidic conditions, as judged by the reactivity of a conformationally sensitive mAb. These mutants, however, were defective for membrane fusion. Second, a peptide encoding the portion flanking the GP64 hydrophobic 4-3 heptad repeat was synthesized. Adding peptide led to inhibition of membrane fusion, which occurred only when the peptide was present during low pH application. The presence of peptide during low pH application did not prevent low pH-induced conformational changes, as determined by the loss of a conformationally sensitive epitope. In control experiments, a peptide of identical composition but different sequence, or a peptide encoding a portion of the Ebola GP heptad motif, had no effect on GP64-mediated fusion. Furthermore, when the hemagglutinin (X31 strain) fusion protein of influenza was functionally expressed in Sf9 cells, no effect on hemagglutinin-mediated fusion was observed, suggesting that the peptide does not exert nonspecific effects on other fusion proteins or cell membranes. Collectively, these studies suggest that the specific peptide sequences of GP64 that are adjacent to and include portions of the hydrophobic 4-3 heptad repeat play a dynamic role in membrane fusion at a stage that is downstream of the initiation of protein conformational changes but upstream of lipid mixing.

publication date

  • December 1999