Semliki Forest virus-induced cell-cell fusion from within was considered to exclusively occur at mildly acidic pH (<6.2). Data of this study show that such cell fusion can also be triggered by transient acidification of the cytoplasm of infected cells at an extracellular, neutral pH. Results were obtained by utilizing NH4Cl pulses combined with covalent modification of cell surface proteins. The observation implies a revision of the current consensus regarding the mechanism of Semliki Forest virus induced cell-cell fusion. We propose a model in which at least two peptide segments of the viral spike protein E1 may be involved in triggering the fusion event.

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