pH regulation in early endosomes and interferon-inducible transmembrane proteins control avian retrovirus fusion [Membrane Biology]

March 24th, 2017 by Tanay M Desai, Mariana Marin, Caleb Mason, Gregory B Melikyan

Enveloped viruses infect host cells by fusing their membranes with those of the host cell, a process mediated by viral glycoproteins upon binding to cognate host receptors or entering into acidic intracellular compartments. Whereas the effect of receptor density on viral infection has been well studied, the role of cell type-specific factors/processes, such as pH regulation, has not been characterized in sufficient detail. Here, we examined the effects of cell-extrinsic factors (buffer environment) and cell-intrinsic factors (interferon-inducible transmembrane proteins, IFITMs), on the pH regulation in early endosomes and on the efficiency of acid-dependent fusion of the Avian Sarcoma and Leukosis Virus, ASLV, with endosomes. First, we found that a modest elevation of external pH can raise the pH in early endosomes in a cell type-dependent manner and thereby delay the acid-induced fusion of endocytosed ASLV. Second, we observed a cell type-dependent delay between the low pH-dependent and temperature-dependent steps of viral fusion, consistent with the delayed enlargement of the fusion pore. Third, ectopic expression of IFITMs, known to potently block influenza virus fusion with late compartments, was found to only partially inhibit ASLV fusion with early endosomes. Interestingly, IFITM expression promoted virus uptake and the acidification of endosomal compartments, resulting in an accelerated fusion rate, when driven by the glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored, but not by the transmembrane isoform of the ASLV receptor. Collectively, these results highlight the role of cell-extrinsic and cell-intrinsic factors in regulating the efficiency and kinetics of virus entry and fusion with target cells.