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J Virol. 2007 Aug;81(16):8634-47. Epub 2007 May 30.

Dynein-dependent transport of the hantaan virus nucleocapsid protein to the endoplasmic reticulum-Golgi intermediate compartment.

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  • 1Graduate Program in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.


In contrast to most negative-stranded RNA viruses, hantaviruses and other viruses in the family Bunyaviridae mature intracellularly, deriving the virion envelope from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) or Golgi compartment. While it is generally accepted that Old World hantaviruses assemble and bud into the Golgi compartment, some studies with New World hantaviruses have raised the possibility of maturation at the plasma membrane as well. Overall, the steps leading to virion assembly remain largely undetermined for hantaviruses. Because hantaviruses do not have matrix proteins, the nucleocapsid protein (N) has been proposed to play a key role in assembly. Herein, we examine the intracellular trafficking and morphogenesis of the prototype Old World hantavirus, Hantaan virus (HTNV). Using confocal microscopy, we show that N colocalized with the ER-Golgi intermediate compartment (ERGIC) in HTNV-infected Vero E6 cells, not with the ER, Golgi compartment, or early endosomes. Brefeldin A, which effectively disperses the ER, the ERGIC, and Golgi membranes, redistributed N with the ERGIC, implicating membrane association; however, subcellular fractionation experiments showed the majority of N in particulate fractions. Confocal microscopy revealed that N was juxtaposed to and distributed along microtubules and, over time, became surrounded by vimentin cages. To probe cytoskeletal association further, we probed trafficking of N in cells treated with nocodazole and cytochalasin D, which depolymerize microtubules and actin, respectively. We show that nocodazole, but not cytochalasin D, affected the distribution of N and reduced levels of intracellular viral RNA. These results suggested the involvement of microtubules in trafficking of N, whose movement could occur via molecular motors such as dynein. Overexpression of dynamitin, which is associated with dynein-mediated transport, creates a dominant-negative phenotype blocking transport on microtubules. Overexpression of dynamitin reduced N accumulation in the perinuclear region, which further supports microtubule components in N trafficking. The combined results of these experiments support targeting of N to the ERGIC prior to its movement to the Golgi compartment and the requirement of an intact ERGIC for viral replication and, thus, the possibility of virus factories in this region.

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