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While the molecular basis of fusion (F) protein refolding during membrane fusion has been studied extensively in vitro, little is known about the biological significance of membrane fusion activity in parainfluenza virus replication and pathogenesis in vivo. Two recombinant Sendai viruses, F-L179V and F-K180Q, were generated that contain F protein mutations in the heptad repeat A region of the ectodomain, a region of the protein known to regulate F protein activation. In vitro, the F-L179V virus caused increased syncytium formation (cell-cell membrane fusion) yet had a rate of replication and levels of F protein expression and cleavage similar to wild-type virus. The F-K180Q virus had a reduced replication rate along with reduced levels of F protein expression, cleavage, and fusogenicity. In DBA/2 mice, the hyperfusogenic F-L179V virus induced greater morbidity and mortality than wild-type virus, while the attenuated F-K180Q virus was much less pathogenic. During the first week of infection, virus replication and inflammation in the lungs were similar for wild-type and F-L179V viruses. After approximately 1 week of infection, the clearance of F-L179V virus was delayed, and more extensive interstitial inflammation and necrosis were observed in the lungs, affecting entire lobes of the lungs and having significantly greater numbers of syncytial cell masses in alveolar spaces on day 10. On the other hand, the slower-growing F-K180Q virus caused much less extensive inflammation than wild-type virus, presumably due to its reduced replication rate, and did not cause observable syncytium formation in the lungs. Overall, the results show that residues in the heptad repeat A region of the F protein modulate the virulence of Sendai virus in mice by influencing both the spread and clearance of the virus and the extent and severity of inflammation. An understanding of how the F protein contributes to infection and inflammation in vivo may assist in the development of antiviral therapies against respiratory paramyxoviruses.