Subversion of cellular autophagosomal machinery by RNA viruses

PLoS Biol. 2005 May;3(5):e156. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0030156. Epub 2005 Apr 26.


Infection of human cells with poliovirus induces the proliferation of double-membraned cytoplasmic vesicles whose surfaces are used as the sites of viral RNA replication and whose origin is unknown. Here, we show that several hallmarks of cellular autophagosomes can be identified in poliovirus-induced vesicles, including colocalization of LAMP1 and LC3, the human homolog of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Atg8p, and staining with the fluorophore monodansylcadaverine followed by fixation. Colocalization of LC3 and LAMP1 was observed early in the poliovirus replicative cycle, in cells infected with rhinoviruses 2 and 14, and in cells that express poliovirus proteins 2BC and 3A, known to be sufficient to induce double-membraned vesicles. Stimulation of autophagy increased poliovirus yield, and inhibition of the autophagosomal pathway by 3-methyladenine or by RNA interference against mRNAs that encode two different proteins known to be required for autophagy decreased poliovirus yield. We propose that, for poliovirus and rhinovirus, components of the cellular machinery of autophagosome formation are subverted to promote viral replication. Although autophagy can serve in the innate immune response to microorganisms, our findings are inconsistent with a role for the induced autophagosome-like structures in clearance of poliovirus. Instead, we argue that these double-membraned structures provide membranous supports for viral RNA replication complexes, possibly enabling the nonlytic release of cytoplasmic contents, including progeny virions, from infected cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phagosomes / physiology*
  • Poliovirus / pathogenicity
  • Poliovirus / physiology*
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA Viruses / physiology*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / analysis
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Virus Replication


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins

Associated data

  • SWISSPROT/P03299
  • SWISSPROT/P11279
  • SWISSPROT/P11615
  • SWISSPROT/P15303
  • SWISSPROT/P38182
  • SWISSPROT/P40482
  • SWISSPROT/P42345
  • SWISSPROT/P48415