Penetration of nonenveloped viruses into the cytoplasm

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2007;23:23-43. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.23.090506.123454.


Although the precise mechanism by which nonenveloped viruses penetrate biological membranes is unclear, a more coherent understanding of this process is starting to emerge. To initiate membrane penetration, nonenveloped viruses engage host cell factors that impart conformational changes on the viral particles, resulting in the exposure of a hydrophobic moiety or the release of a lytic factor. The viruses' interactions with the limiting membrane subsequently compromise the bilayer integrity. This reaction presumably perforates the bilayer to enable the virus to cross the membrane and reach the cytosol. Valuable insights into this process can be gleaned from the membrane transport mechanisms of enveloped viruses and bacterial toxins. To identify systematically the cellular components that facilitate nonenveloped virus membrane penetration, sensitive assays that monitor the transport event directly must first be established. Moreover, higher-resolution structures of penetration intermediates, particularly those solved in complex with membranes, would provide important molecular details into this process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / virology*
  • Cytoplasm / virology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / metabolism
  • Virion / physiology*
  • Virus Internalization*


  • Viral Envelope Proteins