Cell contact is required for efficient transmission of human T cell leukemia virus– type 1 (HTLV-I) between cells and between individuals, because naturally infected lymphocytes produce virtually no cell-free infectious HTLV-I particles. However, the mechanism of cell-to-cell spread of HTLV-I is not understood. We show here that cell contact rapidly induces polarization of the cytoskeleton of the infected cell to the cell-cell junction. HTLV-I core (Gag protein) complexes and the HTLV-I genome accumulate at the cell-cell junction and are then transferred to the uninfected cell. Other lymphotropic viruses, such as HIV-1, may similarly subvert normal T cell physiology to allow efficient propagation between cells.
Igakura, T.; Stinchcombe, J.C.; Goon, P.K.C.; Taylor, G.P.; Weber, J.N.; Griffiths, G.M.; Tanaka, Y.; Osame, M.; Bangham, C.R.M. Spread of HTLV-I Between Lymphocytes by Virus-Induced Polarization of the Cytoskeleton. Science (2003) 299 (5613) 1713-1716. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1080115]