Capturing a flavivirus pre-fusion intermediate

Bärbel Kaufmann, Paul R. Chipman, Heather A. Holdaway, Syd Johnson, Daved H. Fremont, Richard J. Kuhn, Michael S. Diamond, Michael G. Rossmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


During cell entry of flaviviruses, low endosomal pH triggers the rearrangement of the viral surface glycoproteins to a fusionactive state that allows the release of the infectious RNA into the cytoplasm. In this work, West Nile virus was complexed with Fab fragments of the neutralizing mAb E16 and was subsequently exposed to low pH, trapping the virions in a prefusion intermediate state. The structure of the complex was studied by cryo-electron microscopy and provides the first structural glimpse of a flavivirus fusion intermediate near physiological conditions. A radial expansion of the outer protein layer of the virion was observed compared to the structure at pH 8. The resulting ∼60 Å-wide shell of low density between lipid bilayer and outer protein layer is likely traversed by the stem region of the E glycoprotein. By using antibody fragments, we have captured a structural intermediate of a virus that likely occurs during cell entry. The trapping of structural transition states by antibody fragments will be applicable for other processes in the flavivirus life cycle and delineating other cellular events that involve conformational rearrangements.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1000672
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009


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