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EMBO J. 1995 Nov 15;14(22):5514-23.

Influenza hemagglutinin assumes a tilted conformation during membrane fusion as determined by attenuated total reflection FTIR spectroscopy.

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Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville 22908, USA.


Fusion of influenza virus with target membranes is mediated by an acid-induced conformational change of the viral fusion protein hemagglutinin (HA) involving an extensive reorganization of the alpha-helices. A 'spring-loaded' displacement over at least 100 A provides a mechanism for the insertion of the fusion peptide into the target membrane, but does not explain how the two membranes are brought into fusion contact. Here we examine, by attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, the secondary structure and orientation of HA reconstituted in planar membranes. At neutral pH, the orientation of the HA trimers in planar membranes is approximately perpendicular to the membrane. However, at the pH of fusion, the HA trimers are tilted 55-70 degrees from the membrane normal in the presence or absence of bound target membranes. In the absence of target membranes, the overall secondary structure of HA at the fusion pH is similar to that at neutral pH, but approximately 50-60 additional residues become alpha-helical upon the conformational change in the presence of bound target membranes. These results are discussed in terms of a structural model for the fusion intermediate of influenza HA.

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