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J Virol. 2014 Apr;88(8):4434-50. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02607-13. Epub 2014 Feb 5.

A murine retrovirus co-Opts YB-1, a translational regulator and stress granule-associated protein, to facilitate virus assembly.

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Department of Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA.


The Gag protein of the murine retrovirus mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) orchestrates the assembly of immature virus particles in the cytoplasm which are subsequently transported to the plasma membrane for release from the cell. The morphogenetic pathway of MMTV assembly is similar to that of Saccharomyces cerevisiae retrotransposons Ty1 and Ty3, which assemble virus-like particles (VLPs) in intracytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. Assembly of Ty1 and Ty3 VLPs depends upon cellular mRNA processing factors, prompting us to examine whether MMTV utilizes a similar set of host proteins to facilitate viral capsid assembly. Our data revealed that MMTV Gag colocalized with YB-1, a translational regulator found in stress granules and P bodies, in intracytoplasmic foci. The association of MMTV Gag and YB-1 in cytoplasmic granules was not disrupted by cycloheximide treatment, suggesting that these sites were not typical stress granules. However, the association of MMTV Gag and YB-1 was RNA dependent, and an MMTV RNA reporter construct colocalized with Gag and YB-1 in cytoplasmic RNP complexes. Knockdown of YB-1 resulted in a significant decrease in MMTV particle production, indicating that YB-1 plays a role in MMTV capsid formation. Analysis by live-cell imaging with fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) revealed that the population of Gag proteins localized within YB-1 complexes was relatively immobile, suggesting that Gag forms stable complexes in association with YB-1. Together, our data imply that the formation of intracytoplasmic Gag-RNA complexes is facilitated by YB-1, which promotes MMTV virus assembly.


Cellular mRNA processing factors regulate the posttranscriptional fates of mRNAs, affecting localization and utilization of mRNAs under normal conditions and in response to stress. RNA viruses such as retroviruses interact with cellular mRNA processing factors that accumulate in ribonucleoprotein complexes known as P bodies and stress granules. This report shows for the first time that mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV), a mammalian retrovirus that assembles intracytoplasmic virus particles, commandeers the cellular factor YB-1, a key regulator of translation involved in the cellular stress response. YB-1 is essential for the efficient production of MMTV particles, a process directed by the viral Gag protein. We found that Gag and YB-1 localize together in cytoplasmic granules. Functional studies of Gag/YB-1 granules suggest that they may be sites where virus particles assemble. These studies provide significant insights into the interplay between mRNA processing factors and retroviruses.

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