Publications & Reports

Evidence that the transmembrane domain proximal region of the human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 fusion glycoprotein gp21 has distinct roles in the prefusion and fusion-activated states.

K A Wilson, A L Maerz, P Poumbourios
St. Vincent's Institute of Medical Research, Fitzroy, Victoria 3065 Australia.


To investigate the structural context of the fusion peptide region in human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 gp21, maltose-binding protein (MBP) was used as an N-terminal solubilization partner for the entire gp21 ectodomain (residues 313-445) and C-terminally truncated ectodomain fragments. The bacterial expression of the MBP/gp21 chimeras resulted in soluble trimers containing intramonomer disulfide bonds. Detergents blocked the proteolytic cleavage of fusion peptide residues in the MBP/gp21-(313-425) chimera, indicating that the fusion peptide is available for interaction with detergent despite the presence of an N-terminal MBP domain. Limited proteolysis experiments indicated that the transmembrane domain proximal sequence Thr(425)-Ala(439) protects fusion peptide residues from chymotrypsin. MBP/gp21 chimera stability therefore depends on a functional interaction between N-terminal and transmembrane domain proximal regions in a gp21 helical hairpin structure. In addition, thermal aggregation experiments indicated that the Thr(425)-Ser(436) sequence confers stability to the fusion peptide-containing MBP/gp21 chimeras. The functional role of the transmembrane domain proximal sequence was assessed by alanine-scanning mutagenesis of the full-length envelope glycoprotein, with 11 of 12 single alanine substitutions resulting in 1.5- to 4.5-fold enhancements in cell-cell fusion activity. By contrast, single alanine substitutions in MBP/gp21 did not significantly alter chimera stability, indicating that multiple residues within the transmembrane domain proximal region and the fusion peptide and adjacent glycine-rich segment contribute to stability, thereby mitigating the potential effects of the substitutions. The fusion-enhancing effects of the substitutions are therefore likely to be caused by alteration of the prefusion complex. Our observations suggest that the function of the transmembrane domain proximal sequence in the prefusion envelope glycoprotein is distinct from its role in stabilizing the fusion peptide region in the fusion-activated helical hairpin conformation of gp21.


  • Journal: The Journal of biological chemistry
  • Published: 28/12/2001
  • Volume: 276
  • Issue: 52
  • Pagination: 49466-49475