Structures of vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein: membrane fusion revisited
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Glycoprotein G of the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is involved in receptor recognition at the host cell surface and then, after endocytosis of the virion, triggers membrane fusion via a low pH-induced structural rearrangement. G is an atypical fusion protein, as there is a pH-dependent equilibrium between its pre- and post-fusion conformations. The atomic structures of these two conformations reveal that it is homologous to glycoprotein gB of herpesviruses and that it combines features of the previously characterized class I and class II fusion proteins. Comparison of the structures of G pre- and postfusion states shows a dramatic reorganization of the molecule that is reminiscent of that of paramyxovirus fusion protein F. It also allows identification of conserved key residues that constitute pH-sensitive molecular switches. Besides the similarities with other viral fusion machineries, the fusion properties and structures of G also reveal some striking particularities that invite us to reconsider a few dogmas concerning fusion proteins.