ABSTRACT: The recently identified human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a worldwide respiratory virus affecting all age groups and causing pneumonia and bronchiolitis in severe cases. Despite its clinical significance, no specific antiviral agents have been approved for treatment of HMPV infection. Unlike the case for most paramyxoviruses, the fusion proteins (F) of a number of strains, including the clinical isolate CAN97-83, can be triggered by low pH. We recently reported that residue H435 in the HRB linker domain acts as a pH sensor for HMPV CAN97-83 F, likely through electrostatic repulsion forces between a protonated H435 and its surrounding basic residues, K295, R396, and K438, at low pH. Through site-directed mutagenesis, we demonstrated that a positive charge at position 435 is required but not sufficient for F-mediated membrane fusion. Arginine or lysine substitution at position 435 resulted in a hyperfusogenic F protein, while replacement with aspartate or glutamate abolished fusion activity. Studies with recombinant viruses carrying mutations in this region confirmed its importance. Furthermore, a second region within the F(2) domain identified as being rich in charged residues was found to modulate fusion activity of HMPV F. Loss of charge at residues E51, D54, and E56 altered local folding and overall stability of the F protein, with dramatic consequences for fusion activity. As a whole, these studies implicate charged residues and potential electrostatic interactions in function, pH sensing, and overall stability of HMPV F.
Journal of Virology 07/2012; 86(18):9843-53. · 5.40 Impact Factor