Previous work has demonstrated that the small hydrophobic (SH) protein of human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) A2 strain is a 64 amino acid integral membrane protein that accumulates intracellularly as an unglycosylated major species (SH), a minor species truncated at the amino terminus and two -glycosylated species one of which contains a further addition of polylactosamine. In this study, the membrane orientation of SH was mapped by trypsinization of intact RSV-infected cells followed by washout, lysis and immunoprecipitation of protected fragments with antisera specific for the protein termini. This showed that the C terminus is extracellular and the SH protein was not detectably palmitylated. Analysis of the SH protein by sedimentation on sucrose gradients showed that it rapidly assembles into a homo-oligomer that cosediments with the F protein tetramer. Interestingly, all forms of the SH protein were found in the oligomeric fraction. Chemical cross-linking generated species which appeared to represent dimers, trimers, tetramers and pentamers as well as a minor species of 180K which might correspond to the oligomeric form detected by sucrose gradient sedimentation.


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