Background: It is generally thought that viruses require the cytoskeleton during their replication cycle. However, recent experiments in our laboratory with rubella virus, a member of the family Togaviridae (genus rubivirus), revealed that replication proceeded in the presence of drugs that inhibit microtubules. This study was done to expand on this observation.
Findings: The replication of three diverse viruses, Sindbis virus (SINV; family Togaviridae family), vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV; family Rhabdoviridae), and Herpes simplex virus (family Herpesviridae), was quantified by the titer (plaque forming units/ml; pfu/ml) produced in cells treated with one of three anti-microtubule drugs (colchicine, noscapine, or paclitaxel) or the anti-actin filament drug, cytochalasin D. None of these drugs affected the replication these viruses. Specific steps in the SINV infection cycle were examined during drug treatment to determine if alterations in specific steps in the virus replication cycle in the absence of a functional cytoskeletal system could be detected, i.e. redistribution of viral proteins and replication complexes or increases/decreases in their abundance. These investigations revealed that the observable impacts were a colchicine-mediated fragmentation of the Golgi apparatus and concomitant intracellular redistribution of the virion structural proteins, along with a reduction in viral genome and sub-genome RNA levels, but not double-stranded RNA or protein levels.
Conclusions: The failure of poisons affecting the cytoskeleton to inhibit the replication of a diverse set of viruses strongly suggests that viruses do not require a functional cytoskeletal system for replication, either because they do not utilize it or are able to utilize alternate pathways when it is not available.
Matthews et al.: Do viruses require the cytoskeleton?. Virology Journal 2013 10:121. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1743-422x-10-121
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