Of the biological activities of influenza C virus, haemagglutination, receptor inactivation and fusion, only the latter has been conclusively correlated with its surface glycoprotein (gp). We have purified the gp by octylglucoside treatment of influenza C virions followed by centrifugation into a sucrose gradient. Evidence was obtained that gp also represents the receptor-destroying enzyme of influenza C virus, which has been characterized as a neuraminate 9--acetylesterase: (i) it inactivated the receptors for influenza C virus on chicken erythrocytes; (ii) it had acetylesterase activity as indicated by the release of acetate from bovine submandibulary mucin; (iii) monoclonal antibodies directed against gp inhibited the acetylesterase activity of influenza C virus. Although purified gp was unable to agglutinate chicken red blood cells, it blocked haemagglutination by viruses. This finding as well as the haemagglutination inhibition activity of monoclonal anti-gp antibodies indicate that gp is also responsible for the haemagglutinating activity of influenza C virus. Thus, as the influenza C glycoprotein is the only myxovirus glycoprotein with three different activities, we propose the designation HEF in order to describe its function as a haemagglutinin (H), an esterase (E) and a fusion factor (F).


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