GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Molecular Genetics and Microbiology


Microbiology and Physiological Systems

First Thesis Advisor

Dr. Trudy Morrison


Newcastle Disease Virus, Viral Fusion Proteins


The fusion protein of the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV) contains three hydrophobic domains. To explore the topogenic signals of these domains, mutants were constructed in which each of the hydrophobic domains was deleted. The membrane insertion and topology of these proteins was characterized in a wheat germ cell-free translation system supplemented with canine microsomal membranes. The results indicated that the first 13 amino acids of the fusion protein are necessary to confer translation inhibition by SRP. Translocation of the nascent chains containing all or part of the first hydrophobic sequence resulted in the appearance of a species of higher molecular weight consistent with glycosylation of at least four of the five potential N-linked glycosylation sites. When glycosylation was inhibited with a glycosylation competitor peptide, signal sequence cleavage was detected. Protease digestion of mutants missing the C-terminal hydrophobic domain indicated that the C-terminus has stop transfer activity. A comparison of membrane insertion of the wild-type fusion protein to that of a mutant missing the second hydrophobic domain, the fusion sequence, indicated that the fusion domain has stop-transfer activity when synthesized in vitro. Furthermore, the fusion domain shows little signal sequence activity when positioned near the amino terminus of the fusion protein.

The fusion protein has a highly conserved leucine zipper motif immediately upstream from the transmembrane domain of the F1 subunit. In order to determine the role that the conserved leucines have for the oligomeric structure and biological activity of the NDV fusion protein, the heptadic leucines at positions 481,488, and 495 were changed individually and in combination to an alanine residue. Whereas single amino acid changes had little effect on fusion, substitution of two or three leucine residues abolished the fusogenic activity of the protein although cell surface expression of the mutants and sedimentation in sucrose gradients was similar to that of the wild type. Furthermore, deletion of the C-terminal 91 amino acids, including the leucine zipper motif and transmembrane domain resulted in secretion of an oligomeric structure. These results indicate that the conserved leucines do not play a role in oligomer formation but are required for the fusogenic ability of the protein. When the polar face of the potential alpha helix was altered by nonconservative substitutions of a serine-to-alanine (position 473), glutamic acid-to-lysine (position 482) or an asparagine-to-lysine (position 485), the fusogenic ability of the protein was not significantly disrupted.

A phenylalanine residue is at the amino terminus of the F1 protein of all paramyxovirus fusion proteins with the exception of the avirulent strains which have a leucine residue in this position. To explore the role of this phenylalanine in the fusion activity of the protein, this residue was changed to leucine (F117L) or to glycine (F117G) by site-specific mutagenesis while maintaining the cleavage site sequence of virulent strains of NDV. Whereas both the wild-type and the F117G proteins were proteolytically cleaved and F1 was detected, the leucine subsitution abolished cleavage. When co-expressed with the HN protein, the fusion protein with either a phenylalanine and glycine residue at position 117, but not a leucine, was shown to stimulate membrane fusion. However, incubation in trypsin activated the fusion activity of the F117L protein. Thus the presence of a leucine at position 117 of the precursor sequence blocks cleavage, but not fusion acitivity, and indicated that the phenylalanine at the amino terminus of the F1 subunit is not conserved for the fusion activity of the protein.


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