The assembly of virus particles is a crucial aspect of virus spread. For retroviruses, the Gag polyprotein is the key driver for virus particle assembly. In order to produce progeny virus, once Gag is translated, it must translocate from the location in the cytoplasm where it is synthesized to the plasma membrane and form an oligomeric lattice that results in Gag puncta. The biogenesis of mature Gag puncta can trigger the budding process, resulting in virus particle production. While some aspects of the dynamics of Gag oligomerization and particle biogenesis have been observed with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), the process of Gag punctum biogenesis remains poorly understood, particularly for other retroviruses. Here, we have conducted the most detailed studies thus far on Gag punctum biogenesis for human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1). Using mEos2 photoconvertible fluorescent proteins and total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRF), we have found that HTLV-1 Gag was recruited to Gag puncta primarily from the plasma membrane. This was in stark contrast to HIV-1 Gag, which was recruited from the cytoplasm. These observations imply fundamental differences among retroviruses regarding the orchestration of Gag punctum biogenesis, which has important general implications for enveloped virus particle assembly. IMPORTANCE This report describes the results of experiments examining the pathway by which the human retroviral Gag protein is recruited to sites along the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane where Gag punctum biogenesis occurs. In particular, clever and sensitive experimental methods were devised to image in living cells fluorescently labeled Gag protein derivatives from human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) at the plasma membrane. The photoconvertible fluorescent protein mEos2 was strategically utilized, as the fluorescence emission of Gag at the plasma membrane could be differentiated from that of cytosolic Gag. This experimental strategy allowed for the determination of the Gag recruitment pathway into Gag puncta. For HTLV-1 Gag, puncta recruited Gag primarily from the plasma membrane, while HIV-1 Gag was recruited from the cytoplasm. These observations represent the first report of HTLV-1 particle biogenesis and its contrast to that of HIV-1. The observed differences in the Gag recruitment pathways used by HTLV-1 and HIV-1 Gag provide key information that is useful for informing the discovery of novel targets for antiretroviral therapies directed at eliminating virus infectivity and spread.
- Virus assembly