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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Jul;1808(7):1843-54. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2011.03.005. Epub 2011 Mar 21.

Linker and/or transmembrane regions of influenza A/Group-1, A/Group-2, and type B virus hemagglutinins are packed differently within trimers.

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Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.


Influenza virus hemagglutinin is a homotrimeric spike glycoprotein crucial for virions' attachment, membrane fusion, and assembly reactions. X-ray crystallography data are available for hemagglutinin ectodomains of various types/subtypes but not for anchoring segments. To get structural information for the linker and transmembrane regions of hemagglutinin, influenza A (H1-H16 subtypes except H8 and H15) and B viruses were digested with bromelain or subtilisin Carlsberg, either within virions or in non-ionic detergent micelles. Proteolytical fragments were analyzed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Within virions, hemagglutinins of most influenza A/Group-1 and type B virus strains were more susceptible to digestion with bromelain and/or subtilisin compared to A/Group-2 hemagglutinins. The cleavage sites were always located in the hemagglutinin linker sequence. In detergent, 1) bromelain cleaved hemagglutinin of every influenza A subtype in the linker region; 2) subtilisin cleaved Group-2 hemagglutinins in the linker region; 3) subtilisin cleaved Group-1 hemagglutinins in the transmembrane region; 4) both enzymes cleaved influenza B virus hemagglutinin in the transmembrane region. We propose that the A/Group-2 hemagglutinin linker and/or transmembrane regions are more tightly associated within trimers than type A/Group-1 and particularly type B ones. This hypothesis is underpinned by spatial trimeric structure modeling performed for transmembrane regions of both Group-1 and Group-2 hemagglutinin representatives. Differential S-acylation of the hemagglutinin C-terminal anchoring segment with palmitate/stearate residues possibly contributes to fine tuning of transmembrane trimer packing and stabilization since decreased stearate amount correlated with deeper digestion of influenza B and some A/Group-1 hemagglutinins.

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