HBsAg, the surface antigen of the hepatitis B virus (HBV), is used as a model to study the mechanisms and dynamics of a single-enveloped virus infecting living cells by imaging and tracking at the single-particle level. By monitoring the fluorescent indicator of HBsAg particles, it is found that HBsAg enters cells via a caveolin-mediated endocytic pathway. Tracking of individual HBsAg particles in living cells reveals the anomalously actin-dependent but not microtubule-dependent motility of the internalized HBsAg particle. The motility of HBsAg particles in living cells is also analyzed quantitatively. These results may settle the long-lasting debate of whether HBV directly breaks the plasma membrane barrier or relies on endocytosis to deliver its genome into the cell, and how the virus moves in the cell.
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