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Biochemistry. 2008 Jul 1;47(26):6802-8. doi: 10.1021/bi800622t. Epub 2008 Jun 10.

Characterization of the prefusion and transition states of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus S2-HR2.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60607, USA.


The envelope glycoproteins of the class I family, which include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), influenza, and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), mediate viral entry by first binding to their cellular receptors and subsequently inducing fusion of the viral and cellular membranes. In the case of SARS-CoV, heptad repeat domains of the envelope glycoprotein, termed S2-HR1 and S2-HR2, are thought to undergo structural changes from a prefusion state, in which S2-HR1 and S2-HR2 do not interact, to a postfusion state in which S2-HR1 and S2-HR2 associate to form a six-helix bundle. In the present work, the structural and dynamic properties of S2-HR2 have been characterized. Evidence is presented for an equilibrium between a structured trimer thought to represent a prefusion state and an ensemble of unstructured monomers thought to represent a novel transition state. A model for viral entry is presented in which S2-HR2 is in a dynamic equilibrium between an ensemble of unstructured monomers in the transition state and a structured trimer in the prefusion state. Conversion from the prefusion state to the postfusion state requires passage through the transition state, a state that may give insight into the design of structure-based antagonists of SARS-CoV in particular, as well as other enveloped viruses in general.

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