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J Virol. 1994 Aug;68(8):5093-9.

Site-directed mutagenesis of a conserved hexapeptide in the paramyxovirus hemagglutinin-neuraminidase glycoprotein: effects on antigenic structure and function.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester 01655.


The sequence NRKSCS constitutes the longest linear stretch in the amino acid sequence of the hemagglutinin-neuraminidase (HN) glycoprotein of the paramyxoviruses that is completely conserved among all viruses in the group. We have used site-directed mutagenesis and expression of the mutated HN protein of one member of the group, Newcastle disease virus, to explore the role of this highly conserved sequence in the structure and function of the protein. Any substitution introduced for each of four residues in the sequence, N-234, R-235, K-236, or S-237, results in a drastic decrease in neuraminidase activity relative to that of the wild-type protein. Only substitutions for the terminal serine residue in the sequence had comparatively little effect on this activity. These findings are consistent with prior computer-based predictions of protein secondary structure which had suggested that this domain corresponds to one in the beta-sheet propeller structure of the neuraminidase protein of influenza virus closest to the center of the sialic acid binding site and forms part of the enzyme active site. Four of the substitutions, N-234-->Y and K-236-->E, -->Q, and -->S, apparently cause a local alteration in the antigenic structure of the protein. This is evidenced by (i) the diminished recognition of the protein only by monoclonal antibodies thought to bind at the neuraminidase active site, among an extensive panel of conformation-specific antibodies, and (ii) the slower rate of migration in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis for all except the K-236-->Q mutation. One of the mutations, K-236-->S, completely abolishes the ability of the protein to promote cellular fusion when coexpressed with the fusion protein. The latter cannot be explained by a decrease in the relative hemadsorption activity of the protein and suggests that the globular head of the protein may contribute to this process beyond providing receptor recognition.

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