Birnaviridae virus factories show features of liquid-liquid phase separation, and are distinct from paracrystalline arrays of virions observed by electron microscopy (5 tweets)

To gain more information about the nature of Birnaviridae virus factories (VFs), we used a recombinant infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) expressing split-GFP11 tagged to the polymerase (VP1) that we have previously shown is a marker for VFs in infected cells expressing GFP1-10. We found that VFs co-localized with 5-ethynyl uridine in the presence of actinomycin D, confirming they were the site of de novo RNA synthesis, and VFs were visible in infected cells that were fixed and permeabilized with digitonin, demonstrating that they were not membrane bound. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) a region of interest within the VFs occurred rapidly, recovering from approximately 25% to 87% the original intensity over 146 seconds, and VFs were dissolved by 1,6-hexanediol treatment, demonstrating they showed properties consistent with liquid-liquid phase separation. There was a lower co-localization of the VF GFP signal with the capsid protein VP2 (Manders’ coefficient (MC) 0.6), compared to VP3 (MC, 0.9), which prompted us to investigate the VF ultrastructure by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). In infected cells, paracrystalline arrays (PAs) of virions were observed in the cytoplasm, as well as discrete electron dense regions. Using correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM), we observed that the electron dense regions correlated with the GFP signal of the VFs, which were distinct from the PAs. In summary, Birnaviridae VFs are sites of de novo RNA synthesis, are not bound by a membrane, show properties consistent with liquid-liquid phase separation, and are distinct from the PAs observed by TEM.

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