Identification and Characterization of the Putative Fusion Peptide of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Associated Coronavirus Spike Protein
Bruno Sainz, Jr., Joshua M. Rausch, William R. Gallaher, Robert F. Garry, William C. Wimley
Journal of Virology
Severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is a newly identified member of the family Coronaviridae and poses a serious public health threat. Recent studies indicated that the SARS-CoV viral spike glycoprotein is a class I viral fusion protein. A fusion peptide present at the N-terminal region of class I viral fusion proteins is believed to initiate viral and cell membrane interactions and subsequent fusion. Although the SARS-CoV fusion protein heptad repeats have been well characterized, the fusion peptide has yet to be identified. Based on the conserved features of known viral fusion peptides and using Wimley and White interfacial hydrophobicity plots, we have identified two putative fusion peptides (SARS(WW-I) and SARS(WW-II)) at the N terminus of the SARS-CoV S2 subunit. Both peptides are hydrophobic and rich in alanine, glycine, and/or phenylalanine residues and contain a canonical fusion tripeptide along with a central proline residue. Only the SARS(WW-I) peptide strongly partitioned into the membranes of large unilamellar vesicles (LUV), adopting a beta-sheet structure. Likewise, only SARS(WW-I) induced the fusion of LUV and caused membrane leakage of vesicle contents at peptide/lipid ratios of 1:50 and 1:100, respectively. The activity of this synthetic peptide appeared to be dependent on its amino acid (aa) sequence, as scrambling the peptide rendered it unable to partition into LUV, assume a defined secondary structure, or induce both fusion and leakage of LUV. Based on the activity of SARS(WW-I), we propose that the hydrophobic stretch of 19 aa corresponding to residues 770 to 788 is a fusion peptide of the SARS-CoV S2 subunit.
Circular dichroism, Secondary structure, Vesicle interactions, Membrane interactions, Biochemistry