The effect of divalent cations on cell fusion by concentrated Sendai virus, inactivated by beta-propiolactone, was investigated using Vero and mouse L-929 cells in monolayers. With both cell lines, which are normally resistant to exogenous viral fusion, Cu2+ in sublethal concentrations was found to promote polykaryon formation to a marked degree. The simultaneous presence of Cu2+ and virus was required for this effect, which was thought to be related to the cytotoxic action of Cu2+ on the cell membrane. Accordingly, under standard conditions and in the absence of virus, leakage of isotopically labeled intracellular protein was shown to bear a quantitative relationship to Cu2+ concentration. Concomitant changes in the membrane were seen electron microscopically to consist of loss of microvilli and the appearance of numerous vesicles on, or adjacent to, the membrane. The relationship of enhanced fusibility to these toxic changes was not further elucidated. The fusion-promoting effect of Cu2+ far exceeded that of Ca2+; and other cations tested had no effect.

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