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The ongoing threat of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) requires continued, detailed investigations of its replication cycle, especially when combined with the most physiologically relevant, fully infectious model systems. Here, we demonstrate the application of the combination of stimulated emission depletion (STED) super-resolution microscopy with beam-scanning fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (sSTED-FCS) as a powerful tool for the interrogation of the molecular dynamics of HIV-1 virus assembly on the cell plasma membrane in the context of a fully infectious virus. In this process, HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) becomes incorporated into the assembling virus by interacting with the nascent Gag structural protein lattice. Molecular dynamics measurements at these distinct cell surface sites require a guiding strategy, for which we have used a two-colour implementation of sSTED-FCS to simultaneously target individual HIV-1 assembly sites via the aggregated Gag signal. We then compare the molecular mobility of Env proteins at the inside and outside of the virus assembly area. Env mobility was shown to be highly reduced at the assembly sites, highlighting the distinct trapping of Env as well as the usefulness of our methodological approach to study the molecular mobility of specifically targeted sites at the plasma membrane, even under high-biosafety conditions.

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FCS, HIV-1, STED-FCS, microscopy, super-resolution, virus assembly