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Virology. 2007 May 10;361(2):412-25. Epub 2007 Jan 17.

Thermostabilizing mutations in reovirus outer-capsid protein mu1 selected by heat inactivation of infectious subvirion particles.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, College of Engineering, The Graduate School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The 76-kDa mu1 protein of nonfusogenic mammalian reovirus is a major component of the virion outer capsid, which contains 200 mu1 trimers arranged in an incomplete T=13 lattice. In virions, mu1 is largely covered by a second major outer-capsid protein, sigma3, which limits mu1 conformational mobility. In infectious subvirion particles, from which sigma3 has been removed, mu1 is broadly exposed on the surface and can be promoted to rearrange into a protease-sensitive and hydrophobic conformer, leading to membrane perforation or penetration. In this study, mutants that resisted loss of infectivity upon heat inactivation (heat-resistant mutants) were selected from infectious subvirion particles of reovirus strains Type 1 Lang and Type 3 Dearing. All of the mutants were found to have mutations in mu1, and the heat-resistance phenotype was mapped to mu1 by both recoating and reassortant genetics. Heat-resistant mutants were also resistant to rearrangement to the protease-sensitive conformer of mu1, suggesting that heat inactivation is associated with mu1 rearrangement, consistent with published results. Rate constants of heat inactivation were determined, and the dependence of inactivation rate on temperature was consistent with the Arrhenius relationship. The Gibbs free energy of activation was calculated with reference to transition-state theory and was found to be correlated with the degree of heat resistance in each of the analyzed mutants. The mutations are located in upper portions of the mu1 trimer, near intersubunit contacts either within or between trimers in the viral outer capsid. We propose that the mutants stabilize the outer capsid by interfering with unwinding of the mu1 trimer.

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