The fusion peptide of Semliki Forest virus associates with sterol-rich membrane domains

Anna Ahn, Don L. Gibbons, Margaret Kielian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Semliki Forest virus (SFV) is an enveloped alphavirus whose membrane fusion is triggered by low pH and promoted by cholesterol and sphingolipid in the target membrane. Fusion is mediated by E1, a viral membrane protein containing the putative fusion peptide. Virus mutant studies indicate that SFV's cholesterol dependence is controlled by regions of E1 outside of the fusion peptide. Both E1 and E1*, a soluble ectodomain form of El, interact with membranes in a reaction dependent on low pH, cholesterol, and sphingolipid and form highly stable homotrimers. Here we have used detergent extraction and gradient floatation experiments to demonstrate that E1* associated selectively with detergent-resistant membrane domains (DRMs or rafts). In contrast, reconstituted full-length E1 protein or influenza virus fusion peptide was not associated with DRMs. Methyl β-cyclodextrin quantitatively extracted both cholesterol and E1* from membranes in the absence of detergent, suggesting a strong association of E1* with sterol. Monoclonal antibody studies demonstrated that raft association was mediated by the proposed E1 fusion peptide. Thus, although other regions of E1 are implicated in the control of virus cholesterol dependence, once the SFV fusion peptide inserts in the target membrane it has a high affinity for membrane domains enriched in cholesterol and sphingolipid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3267-3275
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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