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Cell. 1994 Jan 28;76(2):383-91.

Lipid-anchored influenza hemagglutinin promotes hemifusion, not complete fusion.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0450.


It has been proposed that membrane fusion events such as virus-cell fusion proceed through a hemifusion intermediate, a state where lipids but not contents of the fusing compartments mix. We engineered the influenza hemagglutinin (HA) such that it would be anchored in membranes via a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) tail. GPI-anchored HA forms a trimer that can bind red blood cells (RBCs) and change conformation under fusion-inducing conditions. Using RBCs labeled with fluorescent lipid or fluorescent soluble content probes, we found that GPI-anchored HA mediated lipid mixing with similar time course and efficiency as wt-HA, yet did not mediate transfer of soluble contents. Hence, GPI-anchored HA appears to initiate, but not complete, a fusion reaction. We interpret our results as evidence for uncoupling a physiological fusion reaction, for trapping a hemifusion intermediate, and for assigning a role to a transmembrane domain in a fusion event.

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