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Force Spectroscopy Shows Dynamic Binding of Influenza Hemagglutinin and Neuraminidase to Sialic Acid

The influenza A virus infects target cells through multivalent interactions of its major spike proteins, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA), with the cellular receptor sialic acid (SA). HA is known to mediate the attachment of the virion to the cell, whereas NA enables the release of newly formed virions by cleaving SA from the cell. Because both proteins target the same receptor but have antagonistic functions, virus infection depends on a properly tuned balance of the kinetics of HA and NA activities for viral entry to and release from the host cell. Here, dynamic single-molecule force spectroscopy, based on scanning force microscopy, was employed to determine these bond-specific kinetics, characterized by the off rate k off, rupture length x β and on rate k on, as well as the related free-energy barrier ΔG and the dissociation constant K D. Measurements were conducted using surface-immobilized HA and NA of the influenza A virus strain A/California/04/2009 and a novel, to our knowledge, synthetic SA-displaying receptor for functionalization of the force probe. Single-molecule force spectroscopy at force loading rates between 100 and 50,000 pN/s revealed most probable rupture forces of the protein-SA bond in the range of 10–100 pN. Using an extension of the widely applied Bell-Evans formalism by Friddle, De Yoreo, and co-workers, it is shown that HA features a smaller x β, a larger k off and a smaller ΔG than NA. Measurements of the binding probability at increasing contact time between the scanning force microscopy force probe and the surface allow an estimation of K D, which is found to be three times as large for HA than for NA. This suggests a stronger interaction for NA-SA than for HA-SA. The biological implications in regard to virus binding to the host cell and the release of new virions from the host cell are discussed.

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