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J Virol. 1996 Nov;70(11):8142-7.

Structural requirements for low-pH-induced rearrangements in the envelope glycoprotein of tick-borne encephalitis virus.

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Institute of Virology, University of Vienna, Austria.


The exposure of the flavivirus tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus to an acidic pH is necessary for virus-induced membrane fusion and leads to a quantitative and irreversible conversion of the envelope protein E dimers to trimers. To study the structural requirements for this oligomeric rearrangement, the effect of low-pH treatment on the oligomeric state of different isolated forms of protein E was investigated. Full-length E dimers obtained by solubilization of virus with the detergent Triton X-100 formed trimers at low pH, whereas truncated E dimers lacking the stem-anchor region underwent a reversible dissociation into monomers without forming trimers. These data suggest that the low-pH-induced rearrangement in virions is a two-step process involving a reversible dissociation of the E dimers followed by an irreversible formation of trimers, a process which requires the stem-anchor portion of the protein. This region contains potential amphipathic alpha-helical and conserved structural elements whose interactions may contribute to the rearrangements which initiate the fusion process.

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