Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 34960636
Link to DOI – 236810.3390/v13122368
Viruses 2021 Nov; 13(12):
A key step during the entry of enveloped viruses into cells is the merger of viral and cell lipid bilayers. This process is driven by a dedicated membrane fusion protein (MFP) present at the virion surface, which undergoes a membrane-fusogenic conformational change triggered by interactions with the target cell. Viral MFPs have been extensively studied structurally, and are divided into three classes depending on their three-dimensional fold. Because MFPs of the same class are found in otherwise unrelated viruses, their intra-class structural homology indicates horizontal gene exchange. We focus this review on the class II fusion machinery, which is composed of two glycoproteins that associate as heterodimers. They fold together in the ER of infected cells such that the MFP adopts a conformation primed to react to specific clues only upon contact with a target cell, avoiding premature fusion in the producer cell. We show that, despite having diverged in their 3D fold during evolution much more than the actual MFP, the class II accompanying proteins (AP) also derive from a distant common ancestor, displaying an invariant core formed by a β-ribbon and a C-terminal immunoglobulin-like domain playing different functional roles-heterotypic interactions with the MFP, and homotypic AP/AP contacts to form spikes, respectively. Our analysis shows that class II APs are easily identifiable with modern structural prediction algorithms, providing useful information in devising immunogens for vaccine design.