The Journal of biological chemistry

Chemical rescue of histidine selectivity filter mutants of the M2 ion channel of influenza A virus.

PMID 15784624


The influenza virus M2 proton-selective ion channel activity facilitates virus uncoating, a process that occurs in the acidic environment of the endosome. The M2 channel causes acidification of the interior of the virus particle, which results in viral protein-protein dissociation. The M2 protein is a homotetramer that contains in its aqueous pore a histidine residue (His-37) that acts as a selectivity filter and a tryptophan residue (Trp-41) that acts as a channel gate. Substitution of His-37 modifies M2 ion channel properties drastically. However, the results of such experiments are difficult to interpret because substitution of His-37 could cause gross structural changes to the channel pore. We described here experiments in which partial or, in some cases, full rescue of specific M2 ion channel properties of His-37 substitution mutants was achieved by addition of imidazole to the bathing medium. Chemical rescue was demonstrated for three histidine substitution mutant ion channels (M2-H37G, M2-H37S, and M2-H37T) and for two double mutants in which the Trp-41 channel gate was also mutated (H37G/W41Y and H37G/W41A). Currents of the M2-H37G mutant ion channel were inhibited by Cu(II), which has been shown to coordinate with His-37 in the wild-type channel. Chemical rescue was very specific for imidazole. Buffer molecules that were neutral when protonated (4-morpholineethanesulfonic acid and 3-morpholino-2-hydroxypropanesulfonic acid) did not rescue ion channel activity of the M2-H37G mutant ion channel, but 1-methylimidazole did provide partial rescue of function. These results were consistent with a model for proton transport through the pore of the wild-type channel in which the imidazole side chain of His-37 acted as an intermediate proton acceptor/donor group.