A cationic, C-terminal patch and structural rearrangements in Ebola virus matrix VP40 protein control its interactions with phosphatidylserine

J Biol Chem. 2018 Mar 2;293(9):3335-3349. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M117.816280. Epub 2018 Jan 18.


Ebola virus (EBOV) is a filamentous lipid-enveloped virus that causes hemorrhagic fever with a high fatality rate. Viral protein 40 (VP40) is the major EBOV matrix protein and regulates viral budding from the plasma membrane. VP40 is a transformer/morpheein that can structurally rearrange its native homodimer into either a hexameric filament that facilitates viral budding or an RNA-binding octameric ring that regulates viral transcription. VP40 associates with plasma-membrane lipids such as phosphatidylserine (PS), and this association is critical to budding from the host cell. However, it is poorly understood how different VP40 structures interact with PS, what essential residues are involved in this association, and whether VP40 has true selectivity for PS among different glycerophospholipid headgroups. In this study, we used lipid-binding assays, MD simulations, and cellular imaging to investigate the molecular basis of VP40-PS interactions and to determine whether different VP40 structures (i.e. monomer, dimer, and octamer) can interact with PS-containing membranes. Results from quantitative analysis indicated that VP40 associates with PS vesicles via a cationic patch in the C-terminal domain (Lys224, 225 and Lys274, 275). Substitutions of these residues with alanine reduced PS-vesicle binding by >40-fold and abrogated VP40 localization to the plasma membrane. Dimeric VP40 had 2-fold greater affinity for PS-containing membranes than the monomer, whereas binding of the VP40 octameric ring was reduced by nearly 10-fold. Taken together, these results suggest the different VP40 structures known to form in the viral life cycle harbor different affinities for PS-containing membranes.

Keywords: Ebola virus; VP40; filovirus; lipid-binding protein; oligomerization; phosphatidylserine; plasma membrane; viral budding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Ebolavirus / metabolism*
  • Ebolavirus / physiology
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Mutation
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Domains
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Transport
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / chemistry*
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / metabolism*


  • Phosphatidylserines
  • VP40 protein, virus
  • Viral Matrix Proteins

Associated data

  • PDB/4LDB
  • PDB/4LDM
  • PDB/1H2C