Rubella virus (RuV) infection of pregnant women can cause fetal death, miscarriage, or severe fetal malformations, and remains a significant health problem in much of the underdeveloped world. RuV is a small enveloped RNA virus that infects target cells by receptor-mediated endocytosis and low pH-dependent membrane fusion. The structure of the RuV E1 fusion protein was recently solved in its postfusion conformation. RuV E1 is a member of the class II fusion proteins and is structurally related to the alphavirus and flavivirus fusion proteins. Unlike the other known class II fusion proteins, however, RuV E1 contains two fusion loops, with a metal ion complexed between them by the polar residues N88 and D136. Here we demonstrated that RuV infection specifically requires Ca2+ during virus entry. Other tested cations did not substitute. Ca2+ was not required for virus binding to cell surface receptors, endocytic uptake, or formation of the low pH-dependent E1 homotrimer. However, Ca2+ was required for low pH-triggered E1 liposome insertion, virus fusion and infection. Alanine substitution of N88 or D136 was lethal. While the mutant viruses were efficiently assembled and endocytosed by host cells, E1-membrane insertion and fusion were specifically blocked. Together our data indicate that RuV E1 is the first example of a Ca2+-dependent viral fusion protein and has a unique membrane interaction mechanism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology