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J Virol. 2012 May;86(10):5437-51. doi: 10.1128/JVI.06703-11. Epub 2012 Mar 7.

The myristate moiety and amino terminus of vaccinia virus l1 constitute a bipartite functional region needed for entry.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Vaccinia virus (VACV) L1 is a myristoylated envelope protein which is required for cell entry and the fusion of infected cells. L1 associates with members of the entry-fusion complex (EFC), but its specific role in entry has not been delineated. We recently demonstrated (Foo CH, et al., Virology 385:368-382, 2009) that soluble L1 binds to cells and blocks entry, suggesting that L1 serves as the receptor-binding protein for entry. Our goal is to identify the structural domains of L1 which are essential for its functions in VACV entry. We hypothesized that the myristate and the conserved residues at the N terminus of L1 are critical for entry. To test our hypothesis, we generated mutants in the N terminus of L1 and used a complementation assay to evaluate their ability to rescue infectivity. We also assessed the myristoylation efficiency of the mutants and their ability to interact with the EFC. We found that the N terminus of L1 constitutes a region that is critical for the infectivity of VACV and for myristoylation. At the same time, the nonmyristoylated mutants were incorporated into mature virions, suggesting that the myristate is not required for the association of L1 with the viral membrane. Although some of the mutants exhibited altered structural conformations, two mutants with impaired infectivity were similar in conformation to wild-type L1. Importantly, these two mutants, with changes at A4 and A5, undergo myristoylation. Overall, our results imply dual differential roles for myristate and the amino acids at the N terminus of L1. We propose a myristoyl switch model to describe how L1 functions.

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