Journal of Virology
The family Arenaviridae includes a number of highly pathogenic viruses that are responsible for acute hemorrhagic fevers in humans. Genetic diversity among arenavirus species in their respective rodent hosts supports the continued emergence of new pathogens. In the absence of available vaccines or therapeutic agents, the hemorrhagic fever arenaviruses remain a serious public health and biodefense concern. Arenaviruses are enveloped virions that assemble and bud from the plasma membrane. In this study, we have characterized the microdomain organization of the virus envelope glycoprotein (GPC) on the cell surface by using immunogold electron microscopy. We find that Junin virus (JUNV) GPC clusters into discrete microdomains of 120 to 160 nm in diameter and that this property of GPC is independent of its myristoylation and of coexpression with the virus matrix protein Z. In cells infected with the Candid#1 strain of JUNV, and in purified Candid#1 virions, these GPC microdomains are soluble in cold Triton X-100 detergent and are thus distinct from conventional lipid rafts, which are utilized by numerous other viruses for assembly. Virion morphogenesis ultimately requires colocalization of viral components, yet our dual-label immunogold staining studies failed to reveal a spatial association of Z with GPC microdomains. This observation may reflect either rapid Z-dependent budding of virus-like particles upon coassociation or a requirement for additional viral components in the assembly process. Together, these results provide new insight into the molecular basis for arenavirus morphogenesis.