Virus entry into cells is typically initiated by binding of virally encoded envelope proteins to specific cell surface receptors. Studying infectivity of lentivirus pseudotypes lacking envelope binding, we still observed high infectivity for some cell types. On further investigation, we discovered that this infectivity is conferred by the soluble bovine protein S in fetal calf serum, or Gas6, its human homolog. Gas6 enhances native infectivity of pseudotypes of multiple viral envelope proteins. Gas6 mediates binding of the virus to target cells by bridging virion envelope phosphatidylserine to Axl, a TAM receptor tyrosine kinase on target cells. Phagocytic clearance of apoptotic cells is known to involve bridging by Gas6. Replication of vaccinia virus, which was previously reported to use apoptotic mimicry to enter cells, is also enhanced by Gas6. These results reveal an alternative molecular mechanism of viral entry that can broaden host range and enhance infectivity of enveloped viruses.
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