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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2007 Jan;1768(1):30-8. Epub 2006 Aug 22.

Configuration of influenza hemagglutinin fusion peptide monomers and oligomers in membranes.

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Department of Chemistry, City College of the City University of New York, NY 10031, USA.


The 20 N-terminal residues of the HA2 subunit of influenza hemagglutinin (HA), known as the fusion peptide, play a crucial role in membrane fusion. Molecular dynamics simulations with implicit solvation are employed here to study the structure and orientation of the fusion peptide in membranes. As a monomer the alpha-helical peptide adopts a shallow, slightly tilted orientation along the lipid tail-head group interface. The average angle of the peptide with respect to membrane plane is 12.4 degrees . We find that the kinked structure proposed on the basis of NMR data is not stable in our model because of the high energy cost related to the membrane insertion of polar groups. Because hemagglutinin-mediated membrane fusion is promoted by low pH, we examined the effect of protonation of the Glu and Asp residues. The configurations of the protonated peptides were slightly deeper in the membrane but at similar angles. Finally, because HA is a trimer, we modeled helical fusion peptide trimers. We find that oligomerization affects the insertion depth of the peptide and its orientation with respect to the membrane: a trimer exhibits equally favorable configurations in which some or all of the helices in the bundle insert obliquely deep into the membrane.

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