Cell–cell fusion is inherent to sexual reproduction. Loss of HAPLESS 2/GENERATIVE CELL SPECIFIC 1 (HAP2/GCS1) proteins results in gamete fusion failure in diverse organisms, but their exact role is unclear. In this study, we show that Arabidopsis thaliana HAP2/GCS1 is sufficient to promote mammalian cell–cell fusion. Hemifusion and complete fusion depend on HAP2/GCS1 presence in both fusing cells. Furthermore, expression of HAP2 on the surface of pseudotyped vesicular stomatitis virus results in homotypic virus–cell fusion. We demonstrate that the Caenorhabditis elegans Epithelial Fusion Failure 1 (EFF-1) somatic cell fusogen can replace HAP2/GCS1 in one of the fusing membranes, indicating that HAP2/GCS1 and EFF-1 share a similar fusion mechanism. Structural modeling of the HAP2/GCS1 protein family predicts that they are homologous to EFF-1 and viral class II fusion proteins (e.g., Zika virus). We name this superfamily Fusexins: fusion proteins essential for sexual reproduction and exoplasmic merger of plasma membranes. We suggest a common origin and evolution of sexual reproduction, enveloped virus entry into cells, and somatic cell fusion.
- Submitted: 26 October 2016
- Revision received 27 December 2016
- Accepted: 18 January 2017
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