The intracellular processing and transport of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) fusion (F) glycoprotein was examined by comparing the maturation and stability of wild-type F, uncleaved mutant F and chimeric F glycoproteins expressed by recombinant vaccinia viruses to that of F protein expressed by RSV. One of the recombinant viruses, vF317, expressed F protein (F317) that was processed like the RSV F glycoprotein. F317 was synthesized initially as F, the uncleaved glycosylated precursor of mature F protein, and formed stable oligomeric structures that were maintained following cleavage of F to form the disulphide bond-linked F and F subunits. Most of the newly synthesized F expressed by either RSV or by vF317 was sensitive to treatment with endoglycosidase H (Endo H). Following cleavage of F, F was resistant to Endo H, suggesting that conversion to complex-type sugars, which takes place in the medial Golgi apparatus, occurred simultaneously with or immediately prior to cleavage of F into F and F. Another recombinant virus, vF313, synthesized only uncleaved F protein (F313) that comigrated with F. Uncleaved F313 was expressed as a stable glycosylated protein; however, unlike cleaved F317, its oligosaccharides were not modified to complex forms, as determined from its Endo H sensitivity, and uncleaved F313 did not assemble into stable oligomeric structures. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the cDNA clones encoding F313 and F317 revealed four predicted amino acid sequence differences, none of which were located at the cleavage site. Expression of chimeric F proteins obtained by restriction fragment exchange between the two cDNA clones indicated that two amino acid changes in the F domain, located at amino acid residues 301 (Val to Ala) and 447 (Val to Met), resulted in the expression of uncleaved F protein. A change at either of these two amino acid residues, 301 or 447, resulted in the expression of inefficiently cleaved F protein, defining an additional F protein phenotype. Pulse-chase analyses to examine the association of recombinant F glycoproteins with gradient-purified fractionated membranes or with GRP78-BiP, a protein resident in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) which binds to nascent proteins, revealed that uncleaved F protein (F313) is associated with GRP78-BiP in the ER for a longer time than F317, and little if any F313 was transported to the cell surface. In addition, the uncleaved F protein (F313) was not recognized by a panel of F protein-specific monoclonal antibodies in ELISA or indirect immunofluorescence assays, suggesting that F313 was misfolded and, as a result, not transported properly or cleaved.


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