Cryo electron tomography of native HIV-1 budding sites.
Carlson L-A., de Marco A., Oberwinkler H., Habermann A., Briggs JAG., Kräusslich H-G., Grünewald K.
The structure of immature and mature HIV-1 particles has been analyzed in detail by cryo electron microscopy, while no such studies have been reported for cellular HIV-1 budding sites. Here, we established a system for studying HIV-1 virus-like particle assembly and release by cryo electron tomography of intact human cells. The lattice of the structural Gag protein in budding sites was indistinguishable from that of the released immature virion, suggesting that its organization is determined at the assembly site without major subsequent rearrangements. Besides the immature lattice, a previously not described Gag lattice was detected in some budding sites and released particles; this lattice was found at high frequencies in a subset of infected T-cells. It displays the same hexagonal symmetry and spacing in the MA-CA layer as the immature lattice, but lacks density corresponding to NC-RNA-p6. Buds and released particles carrying this lattice consistently lacked the viral ribonucleoprotein complex, suggesting that they correspond to aberrant products due to premature proteolytic activation. We hypothesize that cellular and/or viral factors normally control the onset of proteolytic maturation during assembly and release, and that this control has been lost in a subset of infected T-cells leading to formation of aberrant particles.