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J Virol. 2017 Sep 12;91(19). pii: e01179-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01179-17. Print 2017 Oct 1.

Intracellular Colocalization of Influenza Viral RNA and Rab11A Is Dependent upon Microtubule Filaments.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA


Influenza A virus (IAV) consists of eight viral RNA (vRNA) segments that are replicated in the host cell nucleus and transported to the plasma membrane for packaging into progeny virions. We have previously proposed a model where subcomplexes of vRNA are exported from the nucleus and assembled en route to the plasma membrane. However, the role of host cytoskeletal proteins in the cytoplasmic assembly of IAV vRNA segments remains unknown. Previous studies have suggested that IAV vRNA segments are transported via Rab11A-containing recycling endosomes (RE) and use both microtubules (MT) and actin. Rab11A RE transport primarily along MT; therefore, investigation of the role of MT in vRNA assembly is warranted. We explored the role of MT in vRNA assembly and replication by using multiple IAV strains in various cell types, including primary human airway epithelial cells. We observed that Rab11A localization was altered in the presence of MT-depolymerizing drugs, but growth of IAV in all of the cell types tested was unchanged. Fluorescent in situ hybridization was performed to determine the role of MT in the assembly of multiple vRNA segments. Unexpectedly, we found that vRNA-vRNA association in cytoplasmic foci was independent of MT. Given the disparity of localization between Rab11A and vRNA segments in the absence of intact MT filaments, we analyzed the three-dimensional spatial relationship between Rab11A and vRNA in the cytoplasm of infected cells. We found that Rab11A and vRNA colocalization is dependent upon dynamic MT filaments. Taken together, our data suggest that cytoplasmic transport of influenza vRNA may include a Rab11A RE-independent mechanism.IMPORTANCE IAV infections cause a large public health burden through seasonal epidemics and sporadic pandemics. Pandemic IAVs emerge through reassortment of vRNA in animal or human hosts. Elucidation of the mechanism of intracellular dynamics of IAV assembly is necessary to understand reassortment. Our results describing the role of MT in vRNA transport and assembly expand upon previous studies characterizing vRNA assembly. This study is the first to assess the role of MT in influenza virus replication in human bronchial airway epithelial cells. In addition, we present novel data on the role of MT in facilitating the association between distinct vRNA segments. Interestingly, our results suggest that progressive assembly of vRNA segments may be cell type dependent and that vRNA may be transported through the cytoplasm without Rab11A RE in the absence of intact MT. These results enhance our understanding of vRNA assembly and the role of cytoskeletal proteins in that process.


RNA; Rab11A; assembly; endosomes; fluorescent in situ hybridization; influenza virus; microtubules; viral RNA

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