Caenorhabditis elegans proteins AFF-1 and EFF-1 [C. elegans fusion family (CeFF) proteins] are essential for developmental cell-to-cell fusion and can merge insect cells. To study the structure and function of AFF-1, we constructed vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) displaying AFF-1 on the viral envelope, substituting the native fusogen VSV glycoprotein. Electron microscopy and tomography revealed that AFF-1 formed distinct supercomplexes resembling pentameric and hexameric "flowers" on pseudoviruses. Viruses carrying AFF-1 infected mammalian cells only when CeFFs were on the target cell surface. Furthermore, we identified fusion family (FF) proteins within and beyond nematodes, and divergent members from the human parasitic nematode Trichinella spiralis and the chordate Branchiostoma floridae could also fuse mammalian cells. Thus, FF proteins are part of an ancient family of cellular fusogens that can promote fusion when expressed on a viral particle.
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