Letter abstract

Nature Cell Biology 9, 310 - 315 (2007)
Published online: 11 February 2007 | doi:10.1038/ncb1544

Retroviruses can establish filopodial bridges for efficient cell-to-cell transmission

Nathan M. Sherer1,3, Maik J. Lehmann1,4, Luisa F. Jimenez-Soto1,5, Christina Horensavitz2, Marc Pypaert2 & Walther Mothes1


The spread of retroviruses between cells is estimated to be 2–3 orders of magnitude more efficient when cells can physically interact with each other1, 2. The underlying mechanism is largely unknown, but transfer is believed to occur through large-surface interfaces, called virological or infectious synapses3, 4, 5, 6. Here, we report the direct visualization of cell-to-cell transmission of retroviruses in living cells. Our results reveal a mechanism of virus transport from infected to non-infected cells, involving thin filopodial bridges. These filopodia originate from non-infected cells and interact, through their tips, with infected cells. A strong association of the viral envelope glycoprotein (Env) in an infected cell with the receptor molecules in a target cell generates a stable bridge. Viruses then move along the outer surface of the filopodial bridge toward the target cell. Our data suggest that retroviruses spread by exploiting an inherent ability of filopodia to transport ligands from cell to cell.

  1. Section of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale University School of Medicine, 295 Congress Ave, New Haven, CT 06536, USA.
  2. Department of Cell Biology, Yale University School of Medicine, 295 Congress Ave, New Haven, CT 06536, USA.
  3. Current address: Department of Infectious Diseases, King's College London School of Medicine, London Bridge, London, SE1 9RT, UK.
  4. Current address: Department of Virology, Hygiene Institute, University of Heidelberg Medical School, Im Neuenheimer Feld 324, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
  5. Current address: Max-von-Pettenkofer Institute, LMU Munich, Pettenkoferstrasse 9a, 80336 Munich, Germany

Correspondence to: Walther Mothes1 e-mail: walther.mothes@yale.edu


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