To investigate the molecular mechanisms involved in paramyxovirus- induced cell fusion, the function and structure of synthetic peptide analogs of the sequence from the leucine zipper region (heptad repeat region 2) of the Newcastle disease virus fusion protein (F) were characterized. As previously reported (Young et al., Virology, 238, 291), a peptide with the sequence ALDKLEESNSKLDKVNVKLT (amino acids 478-497 of the F protein) inhibited syncytia formation after transfection of Cos cells with the hemagglutinin-neuraminidase and F protein cDNAs. A peptide analog which had an alanine residue in place of the first leucine residue in the zipper motif (ALDKAEESNSKLDKVNVKLT) retained inhibitory activity but less than the original peptide. Further loss in activity was observed in a peptide in which two of the leucine residues were replaced with alanine (ALDKAEESNSKADKVNVKLT), and a peptide which had all leucine residues in the zipper motif replaced with alanine (ALDKAEESNSKADKVNVKAT) had no inhibitory activity. The three-dimensional conformations of these peptides in aqueous solution were determined through the use of nuclear magnetic spectroscopy and molecular modeling. Results showed that while the wild-type peptide formed a helix with properties between an α-helix and a 310 helix with leucine residues aligned along one face of the helix, progressive substitution of leucine residues with alanine resulted in the progressive loss of helical structure. The results suggest that alterations of leucine residues in the zipper motif disrupt secondary structure of the peptide and that this structure is critical to the inhibitory activity of the peptide.
- Molecular modeling
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