We have examined the role of thiol-disulfide exchange reactions during the penetration of cells by Sindbis virus. The protein-protein association that form the rigid icosahedral lattice of the Sindbis virus envelope have been shown to be stabilized by disulfide bridges, and reduction of these critical disulfide bridges during cell penetration may be the mechanism by which the rigid protein lattice is disrupted prior to fusion (R. Anthony and D. T. Brown, J. Virol. 65:1187-1194, 1991; R. Anthony, A. Paredes, and D. T. Brown, Virology 190:330-336, 1992). Reduction of disulfide bridges occurs at near neutral pHs via thiol-disulfide exchange reactions, and these reactions can be blocked by covalent modification of the thiol involved. In this study, the effects of the reducing agent 2-mercaptoethanol on Sindbis virus-mediated cell-cell fusion from without and the effects of the membrane-impermeable thiol-alkylating reagent 5,5'-dithiobis(2-nitrobenzoic acid) on Sindbis virus penetration were determined. The presence of exogenous reducing agent was found to induce fusion from without under conditions unfavorable to both typical Sindbis virus-mediated fusion from without and cysteine-mediated thiol-disulfide exchange reactions. In addition, the thiol-alkylating reagent was found to inhibit Sindbis virus entry when present during infection. These results are consistent with a model for Sindbis virus entry in which reduction of critical disulfide bridges at the cell surface disrupts the rigid protein-protein associations of the envelope, allowing membrane fusion and release of the viral genome into the cell
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