Single-particle fusion of influenza viruses reveals complex interactions with target membranes
The first step in infection of influenza A virus is contact with the host cell membrane, with which it later fuses. The composition of the target bilayer exerts a complex influence on both fusion efficiency and time. Here, an in vitro, single-particle approach is used to study this effect. Using total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy and a microfluidic flow cell, the hemifusion of single virions is visualized. Hemifusion efficiency and kinetics are studied while altering target bilayer cholesterol content and sialic-acid donor. Cholesterol ratios tested were 0%, 10%, 20%, and 40%. Sialic-acid donors GD1a and GYPA were used. Both cholesterol ratio and sialic-acid donors proved to have a significant effect on hemifusion efficiency. Furthermore, comparison between GD1a and GYPA conditions shows that the cholesterol dependence of the hemifusion time is severely affected by the sialic-acid donor. Only GD1a shows a clear increasing trend in hemifusion efficiency and time with increasing cholesterol concentration of the target bilayer with maximum rates for GD1A and 40% cholesterol. Overall our results show that sialic acid donor and target bilayer composition should be carefully chosen, depending on the desired hemifusion time and efficiency in the experiment.