mBio. 2023 Oct 27:e0132623. doi: 10.1128/mbio.01326-23. Online ahead of print.
The human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is an oncogenic retrovirus whose transmission relies primarily on cell-to-cell contacts as cell-free viruses are poorly infectious. Among the intercellular transmission routes described, HTLV-1 biofilms are adhesive structures polarized at the cell surface that confine virions in a protective environment, which is believed to promote their simultaneous delivery during infection. Here, we show that several tetraspanins are enriched in HTLV-1 biofilms and incorporated into the viral envelope. However, we report that only the tetraspanin CD82 interacts with HTLV-1 Gag proteins which initiates their polarization into viral biofilms. Also, we demonstrate that CD82 maintains HTLV-1 biofilm polarization and favors viral transmission, as its silencing induces a complete reorganization of viral clusters at the cell surface and reduces the ability of infected T-cells to transmit the virus. Our results highlight the crucial role of CD82 and its glycosylation state in the architectural organization of HTLV-1 biofilms and their subsequent transfer through intercellular contacts.IMPORTANCEIn the early stages of infection, human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) dissemination within its host is believed to rely mostly on cell-to-cell contacts. Past studies unveiled a novel mechanism of HTLV-1 intercellular transmission based on the remodeling of the host-cell extracellular matrix and the generation of cell-surface viral assemblies whose structure, composition, and function resemble bacterial biofilms. These polarized aggregates of infectious virions, identified as viral biofilms, allow the bulk delivery of viruses to target cells and may help to protect virions from immune attacks. However, viral biofilms’ molecular and functional description is still in its infancy, although it is crucial to fully decipher retrovirus pathogenesis. Here, we explore the function of cellular tetraspanins (CD9, CD81, CD82) that we detect inside HTLV-1 particles within biofilms. Our results demonstrate specific roles for CD82 in the cell-surface distribution and intercellular transmission of HTLV-1 biofilms, which we document as two essential parameters for efficient viral transmission. At last, our findings indicate that N-glycosylation of cell-surface molecules, including CD82, is required for the polarization of HTLV-1 biofilms and for the efficient transmission of HTLV-1 between T-lymphocytes.