Arenavirus budding resulting from viral-protein-associated cell membrane curvature. Academic Article uri icon


  • Viral replication occurs within cells, with release (and onward infection) primarily achieved through two alternative mechanisms: lysis, in which virions emerge as the infected cell dies and bursts open; or budding, in which virions emerge gradually from a still living cell by appropriating a small part of the cell membrane. Virus budding is a poorly understood process that challenges current models of vesicle formation. Here, a plausible mechanism for arenavirus budding is presented, building on recent evidence that viral proteins embed in the inner lipid layer of the cell membrane. Experimental results confirm that viral protein is associated with increased membrane curvature, whereas a mathematical model is used to show that localized increases in curvature alone are sufficient to generate viral buds. The magnitude of the protein-induced curvature is calculated from the size of the amphipathic region hypothetically removed from the inner membrane as a result of translation, with a change in membrane stiffness estimated from observed differences in virion deformation as a result of protein depletion. Numerical results are based on experimental data and estimates for three arenaviruses, but the mechanisms described are more broadly applicable. The hypothesized mechanism is shown to be sufficient to generate spontaneous budding that matches well both qualitatively and quantitatively with experimental observations.

published proceedings

  • J R Soc Interface

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Schley, D., Whittaker, R. J., & Neuman, B. W.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Schley, David||Whittaker, Robert J||Neuman, Benjamin W

publication date

  • September 2013