Amino Acids

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 375–382 | Cite as

Cleavage mechanism of the H5N1 hemagglutinin by trypsin and furin

  • X.-L. Guo
  • L. Li
  • D.-Q. Wei
  • Y.-S. Zhu
  • K.-C. Chou


The cleavage property of hemagglutinin (HA) by different proteases was the prime determinant for influenza A virus pathogenicity. In order to understand the cleavage mechanism, molecular modeling tools were utilized to study the coupled model systems of the proteases, i.e., trypsin and furin and peptides of the cleavage sites specific to H5N1 and H1 HAs, which constitute models of HA precursor in complex with cleavage proteases. The peptide segments ‘RERRRKKR ↓ G’ and ‘SIQSR ↓ G’ from the high pathogenic H5N1 H5 and the low pathogenic H1N1 H1 cleavage sites were docking to the trypsin and furin active pockets, respectively. It was observed through the docking studies that trypsin was able to recognize and cleave both the high pathogenic and low pathogenic hemagglutinin, while furin could only cleave the high pathogenic hemagglutinin. An analysis of binding energies indicated that furin got most of its selectivity due to the interactions with P1, P4, and P6, while having less interaction with P2 and little interactions with P3, P5, P7, and P8. Some mutations of H5N1 H5 cleavage sequence fitted less well into furin and would reduce high pathogenicity of the virus. These findings hint that we should focus at the subsites P1, P4, and P6 for developing drugs against H5N1 viruses.

Keywords: Trypsin – Furin – H5N1 hemagglutinin – Cleavage mechanism – Pathogenicity 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • X.-L. Guo
    • 1
  • L. Li
    • 1
  • D.-Q. Wei
    • 1
    • 2
  • Y.-S. Zhu
    • 1
  • K.-C. Chou
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Life Science and BiotechnologyShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Gordon Life Science InstituteSan DiegoU.S.A.

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