Henipavirus membrane fusion and viral entry

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2012;359:79-94. doi: 10.1007/82_2012_200.


Nipah (NiV) and Hendra (HeV) viruses cause cell-cell fusion (syncytia) in brain, lung, heart, and kidney tissues, leading to encephalitis, pneumonia, and often death. Membrane fusion is essential to both viral entry and virus-induced cell-cell fusion, a hallmark of henipavirus infections. Elucidiation of the mechanism(s) of membrane fusion is critical to understanding henipavirus pathobiology and has the potential to identify novel strategies for the development of antiviral therapeutic agents. Henipavirus membrane fusion requires the coordinated actions of the viral attachment (G) and fusion (F) glycoproteins. Current henipavirus fusion models posit that attachment of NiV or HeV G to its cell surface receptors releases F from its metastable pre-fusion conformation to mediate membrane fusion. The identification of ephrinB2 and ephrinB3 as henipavirus receptors has paved the way for recent advances in our understanding of henipavirus membrane fusion. These advances highlight mechanistic similarities and differences between membrane fusion for the henipavirus and other genera within the Paramyxoviridae family. Here, we review these mechanisms and the current gaps in our knowledge in the field.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / virology
  • Ephrin-B2 / chemistry
  • Ephrin-B2 / metabolism*
  • Ephrin-B3 / chemistry
  • Ephrin-B3 / metabolism*
  • Hendra Virus / pathogenicity
  • Hendra Virus / physiology*
  • Henipavirus Infections / pathology
  • Henipavirus Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney / virology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / virology
  • Membrane Fusion
  • Nipah Virus / pathogenicity
  • Nipah Virus / physiology*
  • Receptors, Virus / chemistry
  • Receptors, Virus / metabolism*
  • Viral Fusion Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Fusion Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Internalization


  • Ephrin-B2
  • Ephrin-B3
  • Receptors, Virus
  • Viral Fusion Proteins