Flaviviruses are enveloped viruses which include human pathogens that are predomi-nantly transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks. Some, such as dengue virus, exhibit the phenomenon of antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) of disease, making vaccine-based routes of fighting infections problematic. The pH-dependent conformational change of the envelope (E) protein required for fusion between the viral and endosomal membranes is an attractive point of inhibition by antivi-rals as it has the potential to diminish the effects of ADE. We examined six flaviviruses by employing large-scale molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of raft systems that represent a substantial portion of the flaviviral envelope. We utilised a benzene-mapping approach that led to a discovery of shared hotspots and conserved cryptic sites. A cryptic pocket previously shown to bind a deter-gent molecule exhibited strain-specific characteristics. An alternative conserved cryptic site at the E protein domain interfaces showed a consistent dynamic behaviour across flaviviruses and contained a conserved cluster of ionisable residues. Constant-pH simulations revealed cluster and domain-interface disruption under low pH conditions. Based on this, we propose a cluster-dependent mechanism that addresses inconsistencies in the histidine-switch hypothesis and highlights the role of cluster protonation in orchestrating the domain dissociation pivotal for the formation of the fusogenic trimer.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Neuroscience
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Immunology and Microbiology