The fusion proteins of the alphaviruses and flaviviruses have a similar native structure and convert to a highly stable homotrimer conformation during the fusion of the viral and target membranes. The properties of the alpha- and flavivirus fusion proteins distinguish them from the class I viral fusion proteins, such as influenza virus hemagglutinin, and establish them as the first members of the class II fusion proteins. Understanding how this new class carries out membrane fusion will require analysis of the structural basis for both the interaction of the protein subunits within the homotrimer and their interaction with the viral and target membranes. To this end we report a purification method for the E1 ectodomain homotrimer from the alphavirus Semliki Forest virus. The purified protein is trimeric, detergent soluble, retains the characteristic stability of the starting homotrimer, and is free of lipid and other contaminants. In contrast to the postfusion structures that have been determined for the class I proteins, the E1 homotrimer contains the fusion peptide region responsible for interaction with target membranes. This E1 trimer preparation is an excellent candidate for structural studies of the class II viral fusion proteins, and we report conditions that generate three-dimensional crystals suitable for analysis by X-ray diffraction. Determination of the structure will provide our first high-resolution views of both the low-pH-induced trimeric conformation and the target membrane-interacting region of the alphavirus fusion protein.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science