Journal of Virology
Arenaviruses are responsible for acute hemorrhagic fevers with high mortality and pose significant threats to public health and biodefense. These enveloped negative-sense RNA viruses replicate in the cell cytoplasm and express four proteins. To better understand how these proteins insinuate themselves into cellular processes to orchestrate productive viral replication, we have identified and characterized novel cytosolic structures involved in arenavirus replication and transcription. In cells infected with the nonpathogenic Tacaribe virus or the attenuated Candid#1 strain of Junin virus, we find that newly synthesized viral RNAs localize to cytosolic puncta containing the nucleoprotein (N) of the virus. Density gradient centrifugation studies reveal that these replication-transcription complexes (RTCs) are associated with cellular membranes and contain full-length genomic-and antigenomic-sense RNAs. Viral mRNAs segregate at a higher buoyant density and are likewise scant in immunopurified RTCs, consistent with their translation on bulk cellular ribosomes. In addition, confocal microscopy analysis reveals that RTCs contain the lipid phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate and proteins involved in cellular mRNA metabolism, including the large and small ribosomal subunit proteins L10a and S6, the stress granule protein G3BP1, and a subset of translation initiation factors. Elucidating the structure and function of RTCs will enhance our understanding of virus-cell interactions that promote arenavirus replication and mitigate against host cell immunity. This knowledge may lead to novel intervention strategies to limit viral virulence and pathogenesis.