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Autophagy. 2008 Apr;4(3):286-9. Epub 2007 Dec 5.

Potential subversion of autophagosomal pathway by picornaviruses.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94301, USA.


The RNA replication complexes of small positive-strand RNA viruses such as poliovirus are known to form on the surfaces of membranous vesicles in the cytoplasm of infected mammalian cells. These membranes resemble cellular autophagosomes in their double-membraned morphology, cytoplasmic lumen, lipid-rich composition and the presence of cellular proteins LAMP 1 and LC3. Furthermore, LC3 protein is covalently modified during poliovirus infection in a manner indistinguishable from that observed during bona fide autophagy. This covalent modification can also be induced by the expression of viral protein 2BC in isolation. However, differences between poliovirus-induced vesicles and autophagosomes also exist: the viral-induced membranes are smaller, at 200-400 nm in diameter, and can be induced by the combination of two viral proteins, termed 2BC and 3A. Experimental suppression of expression of proteins in the autophagy pathway was found to reduce viral yield, arguing that this pathway facilitates viral infection, rather than clearing it. We have hypothesized that, in addition to providing membranous surfaces for assembly of viral RNA replication complexes, double-membraned vesicles provide a topological mechanism to deliver cytoplasmic contents, including mature virus, to the extracellular milieu without lysing the cell.

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