UNLABELLED: Nuclear delivery of the adenoviral genome requires that the capsid cross the limiting membrane of the endocytic compartment and traverse the cytosol to reach the nucleus. This endosomal escape is initiated upon internalization and involves a highly coordinated process of partial disassembly of the entering capsid to release the membrane lytic internal capsid protein VI. Using wild-type and protein VI-mutated human adenovirus serotype 5 (HAdV-C5), we show that capsid stability and membrane rupture are major determinants of entry-related sorting of incoming adenovirus virions. Furthermore, by using electron cryomicroscopy, as well as penton- and protein VI-specific antibodies, we show that the amphipathic helix of protein VI contributes to capsid stability by preventing premature disassembly and deployment of pentons and protein VI. Thus, the helix has a dual function in maintaining the metastable state of the capsid by preventing premature disassembly and mediating efficient membrane lysis to evade lysosomal targeting. Based on these findings and structural data from cryo-electron microscopy, we suggest a refined disassembly mechanism upon entry. IMPORTANCE: In this study, we show the intricate connection of adenovirus particle stability and the entry-dependent release of the membrane-lytic capsid protein VI required for endosomal escape. We show that the amphipathic helix of the adenovirus internal protein VI is required to stabilize pentons in the particle while coinciding with penton release upon entry and that release of protein VI mediates membrane lysis, thereby preventing lysosomal sorting. We suggest that this dual functionality of protein VI ensures an optimal disassembly process by balancing the metastable state of the mature adenovirus particle.
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