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J Virol. 2013 Apr;87(8):4352-9. doi: 10.1128/JVI.03412-12. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

Alphavirus genome delivery occurs directly at the plasma membrane in a time- and temperature-dependent process.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.


It is widely held that arboviruses such as the alphavirus Sindbis virus gain entry into cells by a process of receptor-mediated endocytosis followed by membrane fusion in the acid environment of the endosome. We have used an approach of direct observation of Sindbis virus entry into cells by electron microscopy and immunolabeling of virus proteins with antibodies conjugated to gold beads. We found that upon attaching to the cell surface, intact RNA-containing viruses became empty shells that could be identified only by antibody labeling. We found that the rate at which full particles were converted to empty particles increased with time and temperature. We found that this entry event takes place at temperatures that inhibit both endosome formation and membrane fusion. We conclude that entry of alphaviruses is by direct penetration of cell plasma membranes through a pore structure formed by virus and, possibly, host proteins.

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