A filamentous archaeal virus is enveloped inside the cell and released through pyramidal portals

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Aug 10;118(32):e2105540118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2105540118.


The majority of viruses infecting hyperthermophilic archaea display unique virion architectures and are evolutionarily unrelated to viruses of bacteria and eukaryotes. The lack of relationships to other known viruses suggests that the mechanisms of virus-host interaction in Archaea are also likely to be distinct. To gain insights into archaeal virus-host interactions, we studied the life cycle of the enveloped, ∼2-μm-long Sulfolobus islandicus filamentous virus (SIFV), a member of the family Lipothrixviridae infecting a hyperthermophilic and acidophilic archaeon Saccharolobus islandicus LAL14/1. Using dual-axis electron tomography and convolutional neural network analysis, we characterize the life cycle of SIFV and show that the virions, which are nearly two times longer than the host cell diameter, are assembled in the cell cytoplasm, forming twisted virion bundles organized on a nonperfect hexagonal lattice. Remarkably, our results indicate that envelopment of the helical nucleocapsids takes place inside the cell rather than by budding as in the case of most other known enveloped viruses. The mature virions are released from the cell through large (up to 220 nm in diameter), six-sided pyramidal portals, which are built from multiple copies of a single 89-amino-acid-long viral protein gp43. The overexpression of this protein in Escherichia coli leads to pyramid formation in the bacterial membrane. Collectively, our results provide insights into the assembly and release of enveloped filamentous viruses and illuminate the evolution of virus-host interactions in Archaea.

Keywords: archaeal viruses; cell lysis; hyperthermophilic archaea; virus assembly; virus egress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cytoplasm / virology
  • Electron Microscope Tomography
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology*
  • Lipothrixviridae / pathogenicity*
  • Lipothrixviridae / physiology*
  • Sulfolobus / virology*
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • Virion / metabolism
  • Virion / pathogenicity


  • Viral Proteins