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Regulatory Role of the Morbillivirus Attachment Protein Head-to-Stalk Linker Module in Membrane Fusion Triggering

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Herren Michael, Shrestha Neeta, Wyss Marianne, Zurbriggen Andreas, Plattet Philippe,
Project Paramyxovirus cell exit: from basics to drug discovery strategies
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Virology
Volume (Issue) 92(18)
Page(s) 1 - 20
Title of proceedings Journal of Virology
DOI 10.1128/jvi.00679-18

Open Access


ABSTRACT Morbillivirus (e.g., measles virus [MeV] and canine distemper virus [CDV]) host cell entry is coordinated by two interacting envelope glycoproteins, namely, an attachment (H) protein and a fusion (F) protein. The ectodomain of H proteins consists of stalk, connector, and head domains that assemble into functional noncovalent dimer-of-dimers. The role of the C-terminal module of the H-stalk domain (termed linker) and the connector, although putatively able to assume flexible structures and allow receptor-induced structural rearrangements, remains largely unexplored. Here, we carried out a nonconservative mutagenesis scan analysis of the MeV and CDV H-linker/connector domains. Our data demonstrated that replacing isoleucine 146 in H-linker (H-I146) with any charged amino acids prevented virus-mediated membrane fusion activity, despite proper trafficking of the mutants to the cell surface and preserved binding efficiency to the SLAM/CD150 receptor. Nondenaturing electrophoresis revealed that these charged amino acid changes led to the formation of irregular covalent H tetramers rather than functional dimer-of-dimers formed when isoleucine or other hydrophobic amino acids were present at residue position 146. Remarkably, we next demonstrated that covalent H tetramerization per se was not the only mechanism preventing F activation. Indeed, the neutral glycine mutant (H-I146G), which exhibited strong covalent tetramerization propensity, maintained limited fusion promotion activity. Conversely, charged H-I146 mutants, which additionally carried alanine substitution of natural cysteines (H-C139A and H-C154A) and thus were unable to form covalently linked tetramers, were fusion activation defective. Our data suggest a dual regulatory role of the hydrophobic residue at position 146 of the morbillivirus head-to-stalk H-linker module: securing the assembly of productive dimer-of-dimers and contributing to receptor-induced F-triggering activity. IMPORTANCE MeV and CDV remain important human and animal pathogens. Development of antivirals may significantly support current global vaccination campaigns. Cell entry is orchestrated by two interacting glycoproteins (H and F). The current hypothesis postulates that tetrameric H ectodomains (composed of stalk, connector, and head domains) undergo receptor-induced rearrangements to productively trigger F; these conformational changes may be regulated by the H-stalk C-terminal module (linker) and the following connector domain. Mutagenesis scan analysis of both microdomains revealed that replacing amino acid 146 in the H-linker region with nonhydrophobic residues produced covalent H tetramers which were compromised in triggering membrane fusion activity. However, these mutant proteins retained their ability to traffic to the cell surface and to bind to the virus receptor. These data suggest that the morbillivirus linker module contributes to the folding of functional pre-F-triggering H tetramers. Furthermore, such structures might be critical to convert receptor engagement into F activation.