Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus utilizes nanotubes for intercellular spread

Rui Guo, Benjamin B. Katz, John M. Tomich, Tom Gallagher, Ying Fang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intercellular nanotube connections have been identified as an alternative pathway for cellular spreading of certain viruses. In cells infected with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), nanotubes were observed connecting two distant cells with contiguous membranes, with the core infectious viral machinery (viral RNA, certain replicases, and certain structural proteins) present in/on the intercellular nanotubes. Live-cell movies tracked the intercellular transport of a recombinant PRRSV that expressed green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged nsp2. In MARC-145 cells expressing PRRSV receptors, GFP-nsp2 moved from one cell to another through nanotubes in the presence of virus-neutralizing antibodies. Intercellular transport of viral proteins did not require the PRRSV receptor as it was observed in receptor-negative HEK-293T cells after transfection with an infectious clone of GFP-PRRSV. In addition, GFP-nsp2 was detected in HEK-293T cells cocultured with recombinant PRRSVinfected MARC-145 cells. The intercellular nanotubes contained filamentous actin (F-actin) with myosin-associated motor proteins. The F-actin and myosin IIA were identified as coprecipitates with PRRSV nsp1β, nsp2, nsp2TF, nsp4, nsp7-nsp8, GP5, and N proteins. Drugs inhibiting actin polymerization or myosin IIA activation prevented nanotube formation and viral clusters in virus-infected cells. These data lead us to propose that PRRSV utilizes the host cell cytoskeletal machinery inside nanotubes for efficient cell-to-cell spread. This form of virus transport represents an alternative pathway for virus spread, which is resistant to the host humoral immune response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5163-5175
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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