Structure of a Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus assembly intermediate isolated from infected cells

Kristen Lamb, G. L. Lokesh, Michael Sherman, Stanley Watowich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is a prototypical enveloped ssRNA virus of the family Togaviridae. To better understand alphavirus assembly, we analyzed newly formed nucleocapsid particles (termed pre-viral nucleocapsids) isolated from infected cells. These particles were intermediates along the virus assembly pathway, and ultimately bind membrane-associated viral glycoproteins to bud as mature infectious virus. Purified pre-viral nucleocapsids were spherical with a unimodal diameter distribution. The structure of one class of pre-viral nucleocapsids was determined with single particle reconstruction of cryo-electron microscopy images. These studies showed that pre-viral nucleocapsids assembled into an icosahedral structure with a capsid stoichiometry similar to the mature nucleocapsid. However, the individual capsomers were organized significantly differently within the pre-viral and mature nucleocapsids. The pre-viral nucleocapsid structure implies that nucleocapsids are highly plastic and undergo glycoprotein and/or lipid-driven rearrangements during virus self-assembly. This mechanism of self-assembly may be general for other enveloped viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-269
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Alphavirus
  • Cryo-electron microscopy
  • Virus assembly
  • Virus structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology


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