Purdue University Graduate School
2020-06-23_MihelcDissertation.pdf (6.46 MB)

Three-dimensional ultrastructural analysis of coronavirus and alphavirus rearrangements of host cell organelle membranes

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posted on 2020-06-25, 15:18 authored by Elaine M. MihelcElaine M. Mihelc
Single-stranded positive-sense RNA viruses commonly rearrange host cell organelle membranes into neo-organelles which are involved in virus replication and assembly. These organelles serve to concentrate viral and host factors as well as to conceal viral RNA replication activities from host cell surveillance. To date, many virus-induced membrane rearrangements have been studied by targeted electron tomographic (ET) imaging of specific viral structures at timepoints of known interest. However, the broad cellular context within which these membrane modifications occur and how they change over time are not well understood. A question spanning many virus families is the morphological mechanism of formation of membrane rearrangements. Additionally, it is largely unknown how the membrane modifications affect the morphology of the organelle of origin. In this study, we address specific questions about virus-derived organelles induced by two positive-sense RNA viruses: the coronavirus mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) and the alphavirus Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV). Utilizing serial sectioning and montage imaging for ET, volumes representing approximately 10% of virus-infected cells were imaged and detailed organelle analysis was performed. Using MHV-infected cells, we demonstrate that coronavirus-induced double-membrane vesicles (DMVs) are formed by budding from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and are trafficked to lysosomes for degradation. The ER remains largely morphologically normal early in infection despite the presence of hundreds of DMVs; however, late in infection, virus envelopment in the ER lumen leads to loss of cisternal morphology. For the alphavirus VEEV, we analyze the structure and origin of virus-derived cytopathic vacuoles II (CPVII). We identify four distinct morphological forms of CPVII and provide evidence that all four forms are derived from the Golgi apparatus. Additionally, a protocol is outlined for a newly-developed method for improved cell ultrastructure during genetically-encoded peroxidase tagging of membrane-proteins. This method is also amenable to ET. Overall, this work provides morphological cellular context for virus-induced membrane rearrangements from two families of positive-sense RNA viruses. Analysis of virus-host cell interactions from this large-scale ultrastructural perspective has the potential to lead to new approaches and strategies to combat current and future viral diseases.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Biological Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jason Lanman

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Wen Jiang

Additional Committee Member 2

Susan Baker

Additional Committee Member 3

Andrew Mesecar

Additional Committee Member 4

Claudio Aguilar