Fusion pore conductance to determine the effects of mutating the structure of influenza virus hemagglutinin
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Enveloped viruses, such as influenza, infect cells by fusing their viral envelope with the cell membrane. The fusion pore is a macromolecular structure that links two membranes that are fusing. This paper will focus on the fusion pore initiated by the hemagglutinin (HA) protein of influenza virus upon infection of a host cell. Mutations in the HA protein can alter the time-course and structure of the developing fusion pore. While there is a clear relationship between HA's structure and the dynamic opening of the pore, the initial 3D structure of the fusion pore as it first begins to form remains unknown. We have attempted to address this unanswered question by measuring fusion pore conductance - a one dimensional electrophysiological measurement - at millisecond time resolution for both wild type and mutant HA proteins, using an automated patch clamp apparatus. Correlating the entire life history of the fusion pore with the snapshots we get from 3D imaging (cryo-electron tomography) would allow us to capture the initial pore opening, as well as better understand the effect that mutating the structure of HA has on influenza viral infection. At this time, we have not yet been able to observe the fusion event; however, we do believe that future experimentation using fusion pore conductance to investigate the effects of HA's structure on influenza viral infection are both promising and necessary.