Dissecting the Components of Sindbis Virus from Arthropod and Vertebrate Hosts: Implications for Infectivity Differences

Sindbis virus (SINV) is an enveloped, single-stranded RNA virus, which is transmitted via mosquitos to a wide range of vertebrate hosts. SINV produced by vertebrate, baby hamster kidney (BHK) cells is more than an order of magnitude less infectious than SINV produced from mosquito (C6/36) cells. The cause of this difference is poorly understood. In this study, charge detection mass spectrometry was used to determine the masses of intact SINV particles isolated from BHK and C6/36 cells. The measured masses are substantially different: 52.88 MDa for BHK derived SINV and 50.69 MDa for C6/36 derived. Further analysis using several mass spectrometry-based methods and biophysical approaches indicates that BHK derived SINV has a substantially higher mass than C6/36 derived because in the lipid bilayer, there is a higher portion of lipids containing long chain fatty acids. The difference in lipid composition could influence the organization of the lipid bilayer. As a result, multiple stages of the viral lifecycle may be affected including assembly and budding, particle stability during transmission, and fusion events, all of which could contribute to the differences in infectivity.