The surface glycoprotein, HEF, of influenza C virus (C/Johannesburg/1/66) has been shown to undergo a post-translation conformational change that is evident in a dramatic change of electrophoretic mobility. If the corresponding gene is expressed in the absence of other viral proteins, this folding process does not occur at all or only very inefficiently. A chimaeric protein, HEF-HA(Tail), in which the short cytoplasmic tail (Arg-Thr-Lys) of HEF was replaced by the cytoplasmic tail of the haemagglutinin of an influenza A virus (fowl plague virus) was constructed. In contrast to the wild-type protein, the chimaeric protein was detected on the cell surface. No further improvement of the surface expression was observed when both the transmembrane domain and the cytoplasmic tail were replaced by the corresponding domains of either the influenza A haemagglutinin or gp40, an endogenous protein of MDCK cells. For the HEF-HA(Tail) construct this study shows that a substantial amount of the protein is converted to the 100 kDa mature form that is observed in virus-infected cells. The HEF-HA expressed on the cell surface reacted positively in esterase and haemadsorption assays, indicating that it was present in a biologically active form. The results show that the short cytoplasmic tail of HEF has a negative effect on the folding and surface transport of this protein. How this effect may be prevented during a virus infection is discussed.


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