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J Virol. 2003 Jan;77(2):1281-91.

Cytoplasmic tail of Moloney murine leukemia virus envelope protein influences the conformation of the extracellular domain: implications for mechanism of action of the R Peptide.

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Gene Therapy Laboratories, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90033, USA.


The envelope (Env) protein of Moloney murine leukemia virus (MoMuLV) is a homotrimeric complex whose monomers consist of linked surface (SU) and transmembrane (TM) proteins cleaved from a precursor protein by a cellular protease. In addition, a significant fraction of virion-associated TM is further processed by the viral protease to remove the C-terminal 16 amino acids of the cytoplasmic domain, the R peptide. This cleavage greatly enhances the fusogenicity of the protein and is necessary for the formation of a fully functional Env protein complex. We have previously proposed that R peptide cleavage enhances fusogenicity by altering the conformation of the ectodomain of the protein (Y. Zhao et al., J. Virol. 72:5392-5398, 1998). Using a series of truncation and point mutants of MoMuLV Env, we now provide direct biochemical and immunological evidence that the cytoplasmic tail and the membrane-spanning region of Env can influence the overall structure of the ectodomain of the protein and alter the strength of the SU-TM interaction. The R-peptide-truncated form of the protein, in particular, exhibits a markedly different conformation than the full-length protein.

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