The flavivirus dengue virus (DV) infects cells through a low-pH-triggered membrane fusion reaction mediated by the viral envelope protein E. E is an elongated transmembrane protein with three domains and is organized as a homodimer on the mature virus particle. During fusion, the E protein homodimer dissociates, inserts the hydrophobic fusion loop into target membranes, and refolds into a trimeric hairpin in which domain III (DIII) packs against the central trimer. It is clear that E refolding drives membrane fusion, but the steps in hairpin formation and their pH requirements are unclear. Here, we have used truncated forms of the DV E protein to reconstitute trimerization in vitro. Protein constructs containing domains I and II (DI/II) were monomeric and interacted with membranes to form core trimers. DI/II-membrane interaction and trimerization occurred efficiently at both neutral and low pH. The DI/II core trimer was relatively unstable and could be stabilized by binding exogenous DIII or by the formation of mixed trimers containing DI/II plus E protein with all three domains. The mixed trimer had unoccupied DIII interaction sites that could specifically bind exogenous DIII at either low or neutral pH. Truncated DV E proteins thus reconstitute hairpin formation and define properties of key domain interactions during DV fusion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science