The influenza virus A/Japan/305/57 hemagglutinin (HA) can be converted from a protein that is essentially excluded from coated pits into one that is internalized at approximately the rate of uptake of bulk membrane by replacing the HA transmembrane and cytoplasmic sequences with those of either of two other glycoproteins (Roth et al., 1986. J. Cell Biol. 102:1271-1283). To identify more precisely the foreign amino acid sequences responsible for this change in HA traffic, DNA sequences encoding the transmembrane (TM) or cytoplasmic (CD) domains of either the G glycoprotein of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) or the gC glycoprotein of herpes simplex virus were exchanged for those encoding the analogous regions of wild type HA (HA wt). HA-HA-G and HA-HA-gC, chimeras that contain only a foreign CD, resembled HA wt in having a long residence on the cell surface and were internalized very slowly. HA-HA-gC was indistinguishable from HA in our assays, whereas twice as much HA-HA-G was internalized as was HA wt. However, HA-G-HA, containing only a foreign TM, was internalized as efficiently as was HA-G-G, a chimeric protein with transmembrane and cytoplasmic sequences of VSV G protein. Conditions that blocked internalization through coated pits also inhibited endocytosis of the chimeric proteins. Although the external domains of the chimeras were less well folded than that of the wild type HA, denaturation of the wild type HA external domain by treatment with low pH did not increase the interaction of HA with coated pits. However, mutation of four amino acids in the TM of HA allowed the protein to be internalized, indicating that the property that allows HA to escape endocytosis resides in its TM. These results indicate that possession of a cytoplasmic recognition feature is not required for the internalization of all cell surface proteins and suggest that multiple mechanisms for internalization exist that operate at distinctly different rates.

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