Vaccinia virus, the prototype of the Poxviridae, is a large DNA virus which replicates in the cytoplasm of the host cell. The assembly pathway of vaccinia virus displays several unique features, such as the production of two structurally distinct, infectious forms. One of these, termed intracellular naked virus (INV), remains cells associated while the other, termed extracellular enveloped virus (EEV), is released from the cell. In addition, it has long been believed that INVs acquire their lipid envelopes by a unique example of de novo membrane biogenesis. To examine the structure and assembly of vaccinia virus we have used immunoelectron microscopy using antibodies to proteins of different subcellular compartments as well as a phospholipid analysis of purified INV and EEV. Our data are not consistent with the de novo model of viral membrane synthesis but rather argue that the vaccinia virus DNA becomes enwrapped by a membrane cisterna derived from the intermediate compartment between the ER and the Golgi stacks, thus acquiring two membranes in one step. Phospholipid analysis of purified INV supports its derivation from an early biosynthetic compartment. This unique assembly process is repeated once more when the INV becomes enwrapped by an additional membrane cisterna, in agreement with earlier reports. The available data suggest that after fusion between the outer envelope and the plasma membrane, mature EEV is released from the cell.

This content is only available as a PDF.