The fusion of enveloped viruses with the host cell is driven by specialized fusion proteins to initiate infection. The "class I" fusion proteins harbor two regions, typically two heptad repeat (HR) domains, which are central to the complex conformational changes leading to fusion: the first heptad repeat (HRN) is adjacent to the fusion peptide, while the second (HRC) immediately precedes the transmembrane domain. Peptides derived from the HR regions can inhibit fusion, and one HR peptide, T20 (enfuvirtide), is in clinical use for HIV-1. For paramyxoviruses, the activities of two membrane proteins, the receptor-binding protein (hemagglutininneuraminidase [HN] or G) and the fusion protein (F), initiate viral entry. The binding of HN or G to its receptor on a target cell triggers the activation of F, which then inserts into the target cell and mediates the membrane fusion that initiates infection. We have shown that for paramyxoviruses, the inhibitory efficacy of HR peptides is inversely proportional to the rate of F activation. For HIV-1, the antiviral potency of an HRC-derived peptide can be dramatically increased by targeting it to the membrane microdomains where fusion occurs, via the addition of a cholesterol group. We report here that for three paramyxoviruses - human parainfluenza virus type 3 (HPIV3), a major cause of lower respiratory tract diseases in infants, and the emerging zoonotic viruses Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV), which cause lethal central nervous system diseases - the addition of cholesterol to a paramyxovirus HRC-derived peptide increased antiviral potency by 2 log units. Our data suggest that this enhanced activity is indeed the result of the targeting of the peptide to the plasma membrane, where fusion occurs. The cholesterol-tagged peptides on the cell surface create a protective antiviral shield, target the F protein directly at its site of action, and expand the potential utility of inhibitory peptides for paramyxoviruses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science