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Influenza A virus hemagglutinin prevents extensive membrane damage upon dehydration

By Maiara A. Iriarte-Alonso, Salvatore Chiantia, Alexander M. Bittner

Posted 22 Nov 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.22.469572

While the molecular mechanisms of virus infectivity are rather well known, the detailed consequences of environmental factors on virus biophysical properties are poorly understood. 20 Seasonal influenza outbreaks are usually connected to the low winter temperature, but also to the low relative air humidity. Indeed, transmission rates increase in cold regions during winter. While low temperature must slow degradation processes, the role of low humidity is not clear. We studied the effect of relative humidity on a model of influenza A H1N1 virus envelope, a supported lipid bilayer containing the surface glycoprotein hemagglutinin (HA), which is 25 present in the viral envelope in very high density. For complete cycles of hydration, dehydration and rehydration, we evaluate the membrane properties in terms of structure and dynamics, which we assess by combining confocal fluorescence microscopy, raster image correlation spectroscopy, line-scan fluorescence correlation spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy. Our findings indicate that the presence of HA prevents macroscopic membrane 30 damage after dehydration. Without HA, fast membrane disruption is followed by irreversible loss of lipid and protein mobility. Although our model is principally limited by the membrane composition, the macroscopic effects of HA under dehydration stress reveal new insights on the stability of the virus at low relative humidity.

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