Receptor binding and cell entry of Old World arenaviruses reveal novel aspects of virus-host interaction

Virology. 2009 May 10;387(2):245-9. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2009.02.042. Epub 2009 Mar 25.


Ten years ago, the first cellular receptor for the prototypic arenavirus lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) and the highly pathogenic Lassa virus (LASV) was identified as alpha-dystroglycan (alpha-DG), a versatile receptor for proteins of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Biochemical analysis of the interaction of alpha-DG with arenaviruses and ECM proteins revealed a strikingly similar mechanism of receptor recognition that critically depends on specific sugar modification on alpha-DG involving a novel class of putative glycosyltransferase, the LARGE proteins. Interestingly, recent genome-wide detection and characterization of positive selection in human populations revealed evidence for positive selection of a locus within the LARGE gene in populations from Western Africa, where LASV is endemic. While most enveloped viruses that enter the host cell in a pH-dependent manner use clathrin-mediated endocytosis, recent studies revealed that the Old World arenaviruses LCMV and LASV enter the host cell predominantly via a novel and unusual endocytotic pathway independent of clathrin, caveolin, dynamin, and actin. Upon internalization, the virus is rapidly delivered to endosomes via an unusual route of vesicular trafficking that is largely independent of the small GTPases Rab5 and Rab7. Since infection of cells with LCMV and LASV depends on DG, this unusual endocytotic pathway could be related to normal cellular trafficking of the DG complex. Alternatively, engagement of arenavirus particles may target DG for an endocytotic pathway not normally used in uninfected cells thereby inducing an entry route specifically tailored to the pathogen's needs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arenaviridae Infections / virology*
  • Arenaviruses, Old World / physiology*
  • Dystroglycans / metabolism
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases / physiology
  • Protein Transport
  • Receptors, Virus / metabolism*
  • Virus Attachment
  • Virus Internalization


  • Receptors, Virus
  • Dystroglycans
  • N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases