Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Virol. 2012 Nov;86(22):12129-37. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01880-12. Epub 2012 Aug 29.

Visualization of the two-step fusion process of the retrovirus avian sarcoma/leukosis virus by cryo-electron tomography.

Author information

  • 1Laboratory of Structural Biology, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Retrovirus infection starts with the binding of envelope glycoproteins to host cell receptors. Subsequently, conformational changes in the glycoproteins trigger fusion of the viral and cellular membranes. Some retroviruses, such as avian sarcoma/leukosis virus (ASLV), employ a two-step mechanism in which receptor binding precedes low-pH activation and fusion. We used cryo-electron tomography to study virion/receptor/liposome complexes that simulate the interactions of ASLV virions with cells. Binding the soluble receptor at neutral pH resulted in virions capable of binding liposomes tightly enough to alter their curvature. At virion-liposome interfaces, the glycoproteins are ∼3-fold more concentrated than elsewhere in the viral envelope, indicating specific recruitment to these sites. Subtomogram averaging showed that the oblate globular domain in the prehairpin intermediate (presumably the receptor-binding domain) is connected to both the target and the viral membrane by 2.5-nm-long stalks and is partially disordered, compared with its native conformation. Upon lowering the pH, fusion took place. Fusion is a stochastic process that, once initiated, must be rapid, as only final (postfusion) products were observed. These fusion products showed glycoprotein spikes on their surface, with their interiors occupied by patches of dense material but without capsids, implying their disassembly. In addition, some of the products presented a density layer underlying and resolved from the viral membrane, which may represent detachment of the matrix protein to facilitate the fusion process.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk