September 30, 2010

I love proteins that bend membranes. Bending a membrane is an amazing feat…if we could relate the work of one of these proteins to a large scale human example, I’m sure we’d all be impressed. Today’s post is about one of these proteins, and it comes from a virus.

A recent paper looks at the mechanism that influenza virus uses when a newly replicated virus particle buds out of the cell’s plasma membrane, in order to infect other cells. While many viruses use proteins hijacked from the infected cell for this budding process, influenza virus uses its own protein called M2. M2 alters the curvature of the plasma membrane in order to shape the bud, and mediates membrane scission which is required for release of the virus particle. Images are of synthesized vesicles without (left) or with (right) the domain of M2 thought to bend membrane, and shows that this domain alone is able to induce budding.

Bonus!! Video of entire M2 protein inducing budding in a synthesized vesicle can be found here.

Reference: Jeremy S. Rossman, Xianghong Jing, George P. Leser and Robert A. Lamb. Cell 142 (17), 902-913. ©2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Paper can be found here.

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