A bioactive phlebovirus-like envelope protein in a hookworm endogenous virus
Endogenous viral elements (EVEs), accounting for 15% of our genome, serve as a genetic reservoir from which new genes can emerge. Nematode EVEs are particularly diverse and informative of virus evolution. We identify Atlas virus – an intact retrovirus-like EVE in the human hookworm Ancylostoma ceylanicum, with an envelope protein genetically related to GN-GC glycoproteins from the Phenuiviridae family. A cryo-EM structure of Atlas GC reveals a class II viral membrane fusion protein fold not previously seen in retroviruses. Atlas GC has the structural hallmarks of an active fusogen. Atlas GC trimers insert into membranes with endosomal lipid compositions and low pH. When expressed on the plasma membrane, Atlas GC has cell-cell fusion activity. With its preserved biological activities, Atlas GC has the potential to acquire a cellular function. Our work reveals structural plasticity in reverse-transcribing RNA viruses.
Online Publication Date
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (R01GM102869)
Wellcome Trust (217191/Z/19/Z)