Self-assembly molecular dynamics simulations shed light into the interaction of the influenza fusion peptide with a membrane bilayer

Bruno L. Victor, Diana Lousa, Jorge M. Antunes, Cláudio M. Soares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Influenza virus is one of the most devastating human pathogens. In order to infect host cells, this virus fuses its membrane with the host membrane in a process mediated by the glycoprotein hemagglutinin. During fusion, the N-terminal region of hemagglutinin, which is known as the fusion peptide (FP), inserts into the host membrane, promoting lipid mixing between the viral and host membranes. Therefore, this peptide plays a key role in the fusion process, but the exact mechanism by which it promotes lipid mixing is still unclear. To shed light into this matter, we performed molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of the influenza FP in different environments (water, dodecylphosphocholine (DPC) micelles, and a dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC) membrane). While in pure water the peptide lost its initial secondary structure, in simulations performed in the presence of DPC micelles it remained stable, in agreement with previous experimental observations. In simulations performed in the presence of a preassembled DMPC bilayer, the peptide became unstructured and was unable to insert into the membrane as a result of technical limitations of the method used. To overcome this problem, we used a self-assembly strategy, assembling the membrane together with the peptide. These simulations revealed that the peptide can adopt a membrane-spanning conformation, which had not been predicted by previous MD simulation studies. The peptide insertion had a strong effect on the membrane, lowering the bilayer thickness, disordering nearby lipids, and promoting lipid tail protrusion. These results contribute to a better understanding of the role of the FP in the fusion process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-805
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modeling
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2015


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