The trimeric fusion (F) glycoproteins of morbilliviruses are activated by furin cleavage of the precursor F0 into the F1 and F 2 subunits. Here we show that an additional membrane-proximal cleavage occurs and modulates F protein function. We initially observed that the ectodomain of approximately one in three measles virus (MV) F proteins is cleaved proximal to the membrane. Processing occurs after cleavage activation of the precursor F0 into the F1 and F2 subunits, producing F1a and F1b fragments that are incorporated in viral particles. We also detected the F1b fragment, including the transmembrane domain and cytoplasmic tail, in cells expressing the canine distemper virus (CDV) or mumps virus F protein. Six membrane-proximal amino acids are necessary for efficient CDV F1a/b cleavage. These six amino acids can be exchanged with the corresponding MV F protein residues of different sequence without compromising function. Thus, structural elements of different sequence are functionally exchangeable. Finally, we showed that the alteration of a block of membrane-proximal amino acids results in diminished fusion activity in the context of a recombinant CDV. We envisage that selective loss of the membrane anchor in the external subunits of circularly arranged F protein trimers may disengage them from pulling the membrane centrifugally, thereby facilitating fusion pore formation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science