The matrix (M) protein is viewed as the regulator of paramyxovirus particle assembly and budding. Accordingly it was observed to be mutated, and/or decreased in amount, in cases where virus particle production was significantly reduced. Here, a non-productive [non-defective and defective interfering (DI)] Sendai virus infection of COS cells is presented where virus particle production is abolished in the presence of a normal amount of intracellular M protein. In this infection the haemagglutinin—neuraminidase envelope glycoprotein is shown to be dispensable for virion production, and the fusion (F) envelope glycoprotein behaves as in a productive infection. The M protein is shown to accumulate in perinuclear patches within the cytoplasm. In contrast, localization in the plasma membrane is observed in productive infections. However in both productive and non-productive infections a significant fraction of M protein is found in association with cellular membranes. The M protein-membrane association is shown to take place in the absence of any other viral component, and the M protein-membrane complex exhibits properties similar to those observed for the integral membrane protein F. However these properties are distinct from those of the phosphoprotein, which is thought to associate with membranes in a non-specific manner. Concomitant with the cytoplasmic accumulation of M protein and the reduction of virus particle production in this non-productive infection, DI nucleocapsids are shown not to associate with cellular membrane fractions. This is a property which coincides with their poor envelopment in virus particles. Taken together, these data indicate the need for M protein to be recruited at the perinuclear membranes by the nucleocapsids to participate in viral assembly and budding. This view is consistent with a process of viral assembly taking place on internal cytoplasmic membranes rather than at the plasma membrane.


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