Influenza A Virus M2 Protein Apical Targeting Is Required for Efficient Virus Replication

Nicholas Wohlgemuth, Andrew P Lane, Andrew Pekosz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The influenza A virus (IAV) M2 protein is a multifunctional protein with critical roles in virion entry, assembly, and budding. M2 is targeted to the apical plasma membrane of polarized epithelial cells, and the interaction of the viral proteins M2, M1, HA, and NA near glycolipid rafts in the apical plasma membrane is hypothesized to coordinate the assembly of infectious virus particles. To determine the role of M2 protein apical targeting in IAV replication, a panel of M2 proteins with basolateral plasma membrane (M2-Baso) or endoplasmic reticulum (M2-ER) targeting sequences was generated. MDCK II cells stably expressing M2-Baso, but not M2-ER, complemented the replication of M2-stop viruses. However, in primary human nasal epithelial cell (hNEC) cultures, viruses encoding M2-Baso and M2-ER replicated to negligible titers compared to those of wild-type virus. M2-Baso replication was negatively correlated with cell polarization. These results demonstrate that M2 apical targeting is essential for IAV replication: targeting M2 to the ER results in a strong, cell type-independent inhibition of virus replication, and targeting M2 to the basolateral membrane has greater effects in hNECs than in MDCK cells.IMPORTANCE Influenza A virus assembly and particle release occur at the apical membrane of polarized epithelial cells. The integral membrane proteins encoded by the virus, HA, NA, and M2, are all targeted to the apical membrane and believed to recruit the other structural proteins to sites of virus assembly. By targeting M2 to the basolateral or endoplasmic reticulum membranes, influenza A virus replication was significantly reduced. Basolateral targeting of M2 reduced the infectious virus titers with minimal effects on virus particle release, while targeting to the endoplasmic reticulum resulted in reduced infectious and total virus particle release. Therefore, altering the expression and the intracellular targeting of M2 has major effects on virus replication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2018


  • apical
  • assembly
  • influenza
  • membrane transport
  • virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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