Single-virus fusion experiments reveal proton influx into vaccinia virions and hemifusion lag times

Florian I. Schmidt, Phillip Kuhn, Tom Robinson, Jason Mercer*, Petra S. Dittrich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Recent studies have revealed new insights into the endocytosis of vaccinia virus (VACV). However, the mechanism of fusion between viral and cellular membranes remains unknown. We developed a microfluidic device with a cell-trap array for immobilization of individual cells, with which we analyzed the acid-dependent fusion of single virions. VACV particles incorporating enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) and labeled with self-quenching concentrations of R18 membrane dye were used in combination with total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to measure the kinetics of R18 dequenching and thus single hemifusion events initiated by a fast low-pH trigger. These studies revealed unexpectedly long lag phases between pH change and hemifusion. In addition, we found that EGFP fluorescence in the virus was quenched upon acidification, indicating that protons could access the virus core, possibly through a proton channel. In a fraction of virus particles, EGFP fluorescence was recovered, presumably after fusion-pore formation and exposure of the core to the physiological pH of the host-cell cytosol. Given that virus-encoded cation channels play a crucial role in the life cycle of many viruses and can serve as antiviral drug targets, further investigations into a potential VACV viroporin are justified. Our findings indicate that the microfluidic device described may be highly beneficial to similar studies requiring fast kinetic measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-431
Number of pages12
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2013


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