The M2 proteins of bat influenza A viruses reveal atypical features compared to conventional M2 proteins.

Thompson, Danielle; Cismaru, Christiana Victoria; Rougier, Jean-Sébastien; Schwemmle, Martin; Zimmer, Gert (2023). The M2 proteins of bat influenza A viruses reveal atypical features compared to conventional M2 proteins. Journal of virology, 97(8), e0038823. American Society for Microbiology 10.1128/jvi.00388-23

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The influenza A virus (IAV) M2 protein has proton channel activity, which plays a role in virus uncoating and may help to preserve the metastable conformation of the IAV hemagglutinin (HA). In contrast to the highly conserved M2 proteins of conventional IAV, the primary sequences of bat IAV H17N10 and H18N11 M2 proteins show remarkable divergence, suggesting that these proteins may differ in their biological function. We, therefore, assessed the proton channel activity of bat IAV M2 proteins and investigated its role in virus replication. Here, we show that the M2 proteins of bat IAV did not fully protect acid-sensitive HA of classical IAV from low pH-induced conformational change, indicating low proton channel activity. Interestingly, the N31S substitution not only rendered bat IAV M2 proteins sensitive to inhibition by amantadine but also preserved the metastable conformation of acid-sensitive HA to a greater extent. In contrast, the acid-stable HA of H18N11 did not rely on such support by M2 protein. When mutant M2(N31S) protein was expressed in the context of chimeric H18N11/H5N1(6:2) encoding HA and NA of avian IAV H5N1, amantadine significantly inhibited virus entry, suggesting that ion channel activity supported virus uncoating. Finally, the cytoplasmic domain of the H18N11 M2 protein mediated rapid internalization of the protein from the plasma membrane leading to low-level expression at the cell surface. However, cell surface levels of H18N11 M2 protein were significantly enhanced in cells infected with the chimeric H18N11/H5N1(6:2) virus. The potential role of the N1 sialidase in arresting M2 internalization is discussed. IMPORTANCE Bat IAV M2 proteins not only differ from the homologous proteins of classical IAV by their divergent primary sequence but are also unable to preserve the metastable conformation of acid-sensitive HA, indicating low proton channel activity. This unusual feature may help to avoid M2-mediated cytotoxic effects and inflammation in bats infected with H17N10 or H18N11. Unlike classical M2 proteins, bat IAV M2 proteins with the N31S substitution mediated increased protection of HA from acid-induced conformational change. This remarkable gain of function may help to understand how single point mutations can modulate proton channel activity. In addition, the cytoplasmic domain was found to be responsible for the low cell surface expression level of bat IAV M2 proteins. Given that the M2 cytoplasmic domain of conventional IAV is well known to participate in virus assembly at the plasma membrane, this atypical feature might have consequences for bat IAV budding and egress.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP) > Institute of Virology and Immunology
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP)

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Rougier, Jean-Sébastien, Zimmer, Gert


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture




American Society for Microbiology




Pubmed Import

Date Deposited:

07 Aug 2023 14:52

Last Modified:

01 Sep 2023 00:17

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

amantadine hemagglutinin protein trafficking viroporin virus uncoating




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