Membrane association and localization dynamics of the Ebola virus matrix protein VP40

Biochim Biophys Acta Biomembr. 2017 Oct;1859(10):2012-2020. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2017.07.007. Epub 2017 Jul 13.


The Ebola virus matrix protein VP40 is a major structural protein that provides the scaffolding for new Ebola virus particles. For this, VP40 is first trafficked to the lower leaflet of the plasma membrane (PM) in its dimeric form. Once associated with the PM, the VP40 dimers undergo structural rearrangements and oligomerize into hexamers and filaments that make up the virus matrix. Therefore, association of the VP40 dimers and their stabilization at the PM is a crucial step in the Ebola life-cycle. To understand the molecular details of the VP40 dimer-PM interactions, we investigated the dimer association with the inner leaflet of the PM using detailed all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. The formation of the dimer-PM complex is facilitated by the interactions of the VP40 lysine residues and the anionic lipids POPS, POPI, and PIP2 in the PM. In contrast, the dimer fails to associate with a membrane without POPS, POPI, or PIP2 lipids. We explored the mechanisms of the association and identified important residues and lipids involved in localization and stabilization of VP40 dimers at the PM. MD simulations elucidate the role of a C-terminal α-helix alignment parallel to the lipid bilayer surface as well as the creation of membrane defects that allow partial insertion of the hydrophobic residue V276 into the membrane to further stabilize the VP40 dimer-PM complex. Understanding the mechanisms of the VP40 dimer-PM association that facilitate oligomerization can be important for potentially targeting the VP40 for small molecules that can interfere with the virus life-cycle.

Keywords: Ebola virus; Lipid interactions; Matrix protein VP40; Membrane association; Membrane protein; Molecular Dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anions / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Ebolavirus / metabolism*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / metabolism
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism*
  • Lipids / physiology*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Nucleoproteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation, alpha-Helical
  • Protein Multimerization / physiology
  • Viral Core Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Release / physiology


  • Anions
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Lipids
  • Nucleoproteins
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Viral Core Proteins
  • nucleoprotein VP40, Ebola virus
  • 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoylglycero-3-phosphoserine