Membrane Interactions of Mutated Forms of the Influenza Fusion Peptide Academic Article uri icon

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  • We have studied a group of fusion peptides of influenza hemagglutinin in which the N-terminal amino acid, Gly (found in the wild-type peptide), has been systematically substituted with Ala, Ser, Val, or Glu. The activity of the intact hemagglutinin protein with these same substitutions has already been reported. As a measure of the extent of modulation of intrinsic membrane curvature by these peptides, we determined their effects on the polymorphic phase transition of dipalmitoleoylphosphatidylethanolamine. The wild-type peptide is the only one that, at pH 5, can substantially decrease the temperature of this transition. This is also the only form in which the intact protein promotes contents mixing in cells. The Ala and Ser mutant hemagglutinins exhibit a hemifusion phenotype, and their fusion peptides have little effect on lipid polymorphism at low pH. The two mutant proteins that are completely fusion inactive are the Val and Glu mutant hemagglutinins. The fusion peptides from these forms significantly increase the polymorphic phase transition temperature at low pH. We find that the effect of the fusion peptides on membrane curvature, as monitored by a shift in the temperature of this polymorphic phase transition, correlates better with the fusogenic activities of the corresponding protein than do measurements of the isotropic (31)P NMR signals or the ability to induce the fusion of liposomes. The inactivity of the hemagglutinin protein with the hydrophobic Val mutation can be explained by the change in the angle of membrane insertion of the helical fusion peptide as measured by polarized FTIR. Thus, the nature of the interactions of the fusion peptides with membranes can, in large part, explain the differences in the fusogenic activity of the intact protein.


  • Epand, Richard
  • Epand, Raquel F
  • Martin, Isabelle
  • Ruysschaert, Jean-Marie

publication date

  • July 1, 2001

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