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EMBO J. 1982;1(2):217-22.

Membrane fusion activity of influenza virus.


A simple assay is described to monitor fusion between fowl plague virus (FPV, an avian influenza A virus) and liposomes which allows the simultaneous quantitation of both lytic and non-lytic fusion events. As in fusion between viruses and the plasma membrane and in FPV-induced cell-cell fusion, the reaction only occurs at pH 5.5 or below, and it is fast, highly efficient, and essentially non-lytic when fresh virus and liposomes are used. The fusion occurs over a broad temperature range, and has no requirement for divalent cations. The fusion factor of influenza virus is a hemagglutinin (HA) spike which protrudes from the virus membrane and which is also responsible for virus binding to the host cell. The finding that fusion occurs as efficiently with liposomes containing or lacking virus receptor structures, further emphasizes the remarkable division of labor in the HA molecule: the receptor-binding sites are located in the globular HA1 domains and the fusion activation peptide is found at the N-terminal of HA2 in the stem region of the protein. The mechanism of fusion is discussed in terms of the three-dimensional structure of the HA and the conformational change which the protein undergoes at the fusion pH optimum.

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