The biological role of a leucine zipper motif present in the measles virus fusion (F) protein has been investigated. This motif is present in all paramyxovirus F proteins, all coronavirus spike proteins and many if not all retrovirus envelope proteins. By analogy to its role in certain transcription factors, it has been suggested that the motif may be responsible for the oligomerization of these viral membrane proteins. In this study, one, two or four heptadic leucines in the motif were substituted using site-directed mutagenesis. We found that fusion is prevented when all four heptadic leucines present in the motif are mutated whereas cellular transport and the oligomeric state of the F protein are unaffected.


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