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J Virol. 1989 Dec; 63(12): 4991–4997.
PMCID: PMC251158

The heterodimeric association between the membrane proteins of Semliki Forest virus changes its sensitivity to low pH during virus maturation.


The budding and the fusion processes of the enveloped animal virus Semliki Forest virus serve the purpose of transporting its nucleocapsid, containing its genome, from the cytoplasm of an infected cell into that of an uninfected one. We show here that, in the infected cell, the viral membrane (spike) proteins p62 and E1 are organized as heterodimers which are very resistant to dissociation in acidic conditions. In contrast, the mature form of the heterodimer, E2E1, which is found in the virus particle and which is generated by proteolytic processing of p62, is very prone to dissociate upon treatment with mildly acidic buffers. We discuss the possibility that this difference in behavior of the intracellular precursor form and the mature form of the spike protein complex represents an important regulatory mechanism for the processes involving membrane binding around the nucleocapsid during budding and membrane release from the nucleocapsid at the stage of virus fusion.

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