Influenza virus genome reaches the plasma membrane via a modified endoplasmic reticulum and Rab11-dependent vesicles

Nat Commun. 2017 Nov 9;8(1):1396. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01557-6.


Transport of neo-synthesized influenza A virus (IAV) viral ribonucleoproteins (vRNPs) from the nucleus to the plasma membrane involves Rab 11 but the precise mechanism remains poorly understood. We used metal-tagging and immunolabeling to visualize viral proteins and cellular endomembrane markers by electron microscopy of IAV-infected cells. Unexpectedly, we provide evidence that the vRNP components and the Rab11 protein are present at the membrane of a modified, tubulated endoplasmic reticulum (ER) that extends all throughout the cell, and on irregularly coated vesicles (ICVs). Some ICVs are found very close to the ER and to the plasma membrane. ICV formation is observed only in infected cells and requires an active Rab11 GTPase. Against the currently accepted model in which vRNPs are carried onto Rab11-positive recycling endosomes across the cytoplasm, our findings reveal that the endomembrane organelle that is primarily involved in the transport of vRNPs is the ER.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Dogs
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Endosomes / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / genetics*
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Protein Transport / physiology*
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Ribonucleoproteins / metabolism*
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism*
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • Viral Proteins
  • rab11 protein
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins