Severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) poses a serious public health hazard. The S2 subunit of the S glycoprotein of SARS-CoV carries out fusion between the virus and the host cells. However, the exact mechanism of the cell fusion process is not well understood. Current model suggests that a conformational transition, upon receptor recognition, of the two heptad core regions of S2 may expose the hydrophobic fusogenic peptide or fusion peptide for membrane insertion. Three regions of the S2 subunit have been proposed to be involved in cell-cell fusion. The N-terminal fusion peptide (FP, residues 770-788), an internal fusion peptide (IFP, residues 873-888) and the pre-transmembrane region (PTM, residues 1185-1202) demonstrated interactions with model lipid membranes and potentially involved in the fusion process. Here, we have determined atomic resolution structures of these three peptides in DPC detergent micelles by solution NMR. FP assumes α-helical conformation with significant distortion at the central Gly residues; enabling a close packing among sidechains of aromatic residues including W, Y and F. The 3-D structure of PMT is characterized by a helix-loop-helix with extensive aromatic interactions within the helices. IFP adopts a rather straight α-helical conformation defined by packing among sidechains of aromatic and aliphatic residues. Paramagnetic spin labeled NMR has demonstrated surface localization of PMT whereas FP and IFP inserted into the micelles. Collectively, data presented in this study will aid in understanding fusion mechanism of SARS-CoV.
Keywords: Cell fusion; Fusion peptide; Fusion protein; NMR; SARS-CoV; Structure.
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