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Biophys J. 2009 Sep 16;97(6):1647-56. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2009.07.011.

Rapid actin-dependent viral motility in live cells.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


During the course of an infection, viruses take advantage of a variety of mechanisms to travel in cells, ranging from diffusion within the cytosol to active transport along cytoskeletal filaments. To study viral motility within the intrinsically heterogeneous environment of the cell, we have developed a motility assay that allows for the global and unbiased analysis of tens of thousands of virus trajectories in live cells. Using this assay, we discovered that poliovirus exhibits anomalously rapid intracellular movement that was independent of microtubules, a common track for fast and directed cargo transport. Such rapid motion, with speeds of up to 5 microm/s, allows the virus particles to quickly explore all regions of the cell with the exception of the nucleus. The rapid, microtubule-independent movement of poliovirus was observed in multiple human-derived cell lines, but appeared to be cargo-specific. Other cargo, including a closely related picornavirus, did not exhibit similar motility. Furthermore, the motility is energy-dependent and requires an intact actin cytoskeleton, suggesting an active transport mechanism. The speed of this microtubule-independent but actin-dependent movement is nearly an order of magnitude faster than the fastest speeds reported for actin-dependent transport in animal cells, either by actin polymerization or by myosin motor proteins.

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