Sendai virus N-terminal fusion peptide consists of two similar repeats, both of which contribute to membrane fusion
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The N-terminal fusion peptide of Sendai virus F1 envelope glycoprotein is a stretch of 14 amino acids, most of which are hydrophobic. Following this region, we detected a segment of 11 residues that are strikingly similar to the N-terminal fusion peptide. We found that, when anchored to the membrane by palmitoylation of its N-terminus, this segment (WT-palm-19-33) induces membrane fusion of large unilamellar liposomes to almost the same extent as a segment that includes the N-terminal fusion peptide. The activity of WT-palm-19-33 was dependent on its specific sequence, as a palmitoylated peptide with the same amino-acid composition but a scrambled sequence was inactive. Interestingly, two mutations (G7A and G12A) known to increase F1- induced cell-cell fusion, also increased the homology between the N-terminal fusion peptide and WT-palm-19-33. The role of the amino-acid sequence on the fusogenicity, secondary structure, and mechanism of membrane fusion was analyzed by comparing a peptide comprising both homologous segments (WT 1-33), a G12A mutant (G12A 1-33), a G7A-G12A double mutant (G7A-G12A 1-33), and a peptide with a scrambled sequence (SC 1-33). Based on these experiments, we postulate that replacement of Gly 7 and Gly12 by Ala increases the alpha helical content of the N-terminal region, with a concomitant increase in its fusogenic activity. Furthermore, the dissimilar abilities of the different peptides to induce membrane negative curvature as well as to promote isotropic 31P NMR signals, suggest that these mutations might also alter the extent of membrane penetration of the 33-residue peptide. Interestingly, our results serve to explain the effect of the G7A and G12A mutations on the fusogenic activity of the parent F1 protein in vivo.
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