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PNAS: Entropic forces drive clustering and spatial localization of influenza A M2 during viral budding

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  • PNAS: Entropic forces drive clustering and spatial localization of influenza A M2 during viral budding

    Entropic forces drive clustering and spatial localization of influenza A M2 during viral budding

    Jesper J. Madsen, John M. A. Grime, Jeremy S. Rossman, and Gregory A. Voth
    PNAS September 11, 2018 115 (37) E8595-E8603; published ahead of print August 27, 2018
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    • Edited by Michael L. Klein, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, and approved July 30, 2018 (received for review March 28, 2018)

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    For influenza virus to release from the infected host cell, controlled viral budding must finalize with membrane scission of the viral envelope. Curiously, influenza carries its own protein, M2, which can sever the membrane of the constricted budding neck. Here we elucidate the physical mechanism of clustering and spatial localization of the M2 scission proteins through a combined computational and experimental approach. Our results provide fundamental insights into how M2 clustering and localization interplay with membrane curvature, membrane lateral stresses, and lipid bilayer phase behavior during viral budding to contribute to virion release.


    The influenza A matrix 2 (M2) transmembrane protein facilitates virion release from the infected host cell. In particular, M2 plays a role in the induction of membrane curvature and/or in the scission process whereby the envelope is cut upon virion release. Here we show using coarse-grained computer simulations that various M2 assembly geometries emerge due to an entropic driving force, resulting in compact clusters or linearly extended aggregates as a direct consequence of the lateral membrane stresses. Conditions under which these protein assemblies will cause the lipid membrane to curve are explored, and we predict that a critical cluster size is required for this to happen. We go on to demonstrate that under the stress conditions taking place in the cellular membrane as it undergoes large-scale membrane remodeling, the M2 protein will, in principle, be able to both contribute to curvature induction and sense curvature to line up in manifolds where local membrane line tension is high. M2 is found to exhibit linactant behavior in liquid-disordered–liquid-ordered phase-separated lipid mixtures and to be excluded from the liquid-ordered phase, in near-quantitative agreement with experimental observations. Our findings support a role for M2 in membrane remodeling during influenza viral budding both as an inducer and a sensor of membrane curvature, and they suggest a mechanism by which localization of M2 can occur as the virion assembles and releases from the host cell, independent of how the membrane curvature is produced.