Electron tomography and simulation of baculovirus actin comet tails support a tethered filament model of pathogen propulsion

PLoS Biol. 2014 Jan;12(1):e1001765. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001765. Epub 2014 Jan 14.

Abstract

Several pathogens induce propulsive actin comet tails in cells they invade to disseminate their infection. They achieve this by recruiting factors for actin nucleation, the Arp2/3 complex, and polymerization regulators from the host cytoplasm. Owing to limited information on the structural organization of actin comets and in particular the spatial arrangement of filaments engaged in propulsion, the underlying mechanism of pathogen movement is currently speculative and controversial. Using electron tomography we have resolved the three-dimensional architecture of actin comet tails propelling baculovirus, the smallest pathogen yet known to hijack the actin motile machinery. Comet tail geometry was also mimicked in mixtures of virus capsids with purified actin and a minimal inventory of actin regulators. We demonstrate that propulsion is based on the assembly of a fishbone-like array of actin filaments organized in subsets linked by branch junctions, with an average of four filaments pushing the virus at any one time. Using an energy-minimizing function we have simulated the structure of actin comet tails as well as the tracks adopted by baculovirus in infected cells in vivo. The results from the simulations rule out gel squeezing models of propulsion and support those in which actin filaments are continuously tethered during branch nucleation and polymerization. Since Listeria monocytogenes, Shigella flexneri, and Vaccinia virus among other pathogens use the same common toolbox of components as baculovirus to move, we suggest they share the same principles of actin organization and mode of propulsion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Actin Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure*
  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex / metabolism
  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex / ultrastructure*
  • Animals
  • Baculoviridae / chemistry
  • Baculoviridae / physiology
  • Baculoviridae / ultrastructure*
  • Comet Assay
  • Electron Microscope Tomography
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Goldfish
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Melanoma, Experimental
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Sf9 Cells
  • Spodoptera

Substances

  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • red fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins