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J Virol. 2001 Jun;75(12):5656-62.

Influenza A virus can undergo multiple cycles of replication without M2 ion channel activity.

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Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Ion channel proteins are common constituents of cells and have even been identified in some viruses. For example, the M2 protein of influenza A virus has proton ion channel activity that is thought to play an important role in viral replication. Because direct support for this function is lacking, we attempted to generate viruses with defective M2 ion channel activity. Unexpectedly, mutants with apparent loss of M2 ion channel activity by an in vitro assay replicated as efficiently as the wild-type virus in cell culture. We also generated a chimeric mutant containing an M2 protein whose transmembrane domain was replaced with that from the hemagglutinin glycoprotein. This virus replicated reasonably well in cell culture but showed no growth in mice. Finally, a mutant lacking both the transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains of M2 protein grew poorly in cell culture and showed no growth in mice. Thus, influenza A virus can undergo multiple cycles of replication without the M2 transmembrane domain responsible for ion channel activity, although this activity promotes efficient viral replication.

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