Effect of influenza virus on erythrocyte membranes was investigated by electron microscopy and fluorescence photobleaching recovery measurements. The virus induced mobilization of integral proteins in erythrocyte membrane at acidic pH, where it fused with the cell membrane to cause hemolysis and also cell fusions but not at neutral pH. At lower temperatures (e.g., 4 °C), the proteins aggregated in the membrane and, consequently, large protein-free lipid bilayer area was produced. At higher temperatures (e.g., 37 °C) the protein distribution became randomized. Spectrin meshwork underneath the erythrocyte membrane was also markedly modified by the virus at acidic pH. Diffuse fibril structure was converted into dense spots and the membrane area lacking the fibril structure was produced. Isolated hemagglutinin rosettes also caused mobilization and aggregation of the integral proteins at acidic pH but to smaller extent than that induced by virus. The membrane perturbation detected as the protein mobilization by the action of hemagglutinin was assigned to be the cause for envelope fusion.
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