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Vaccinia virus (VACV) produces two distinct enveloped virions, the intracellular mature virus (IMV) and the extracellular enveloped virus (EEV), but the entry mechanism of neither virion is understood. Here, the binding and entry of IMV particles have been investigated. The cell receptors for IMV are unknown, but it was proposed that IMV can bind to glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) on the cell surface and three IMV surface proteins have been implicated in this. In this study, the effect of soluble GAGs on IMV infectivity was reinvestigated and it was demonstrated that GAGs affected IMV infectivity partially in some cells, but not at all in others. Therefore, binding of IMV to GAGs is cell type-specific and not essential for IMV entry. By using electron microscopy, it is demonstrated that IMV from strains Western Reserve and modified virus Ankara enter cells by fusion with the plasma membrane. After an IMV particle bound to the cell, the IMV membrane fused with the plasma membrane and released the virus core into the cytoplasm. IMV surface antigen became incorporated into the plasma membrane and was not left outside the cell, as claimed in previous studies. Continuity between the IMV membrane and the plasma membrane was confirmed by tilt-series analysis to orientate membranes perpendicularly to the beam of the electron microscope. This analysis shows unequivocally that IMV is surrounded by a single lipid membrane and enters by fusion at the cell surface.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of General Virology


Microbiology Society

Publication Date





1279 - 1290