Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is a negative-strand RNA virus with a non-segmented genome, closely related to rabies virus. Both have characteristic bullet-like shapes. We report the structure of intact, infectious VSV particles determined by cryogenic electron microscopy. By compensating for polymorphism among viral particles with computational classification, we obtained a reconstruction of the shaft (“trunk”) at 3.5 Å resolution, with lower resolution for the rounded tip. The ribonucleoprotein (RNP), genomic RNA complexed with nucleoprotein (N), curls into a dome-like structure with about eight gradually expanding turns before transitioning into the regular helical trunk. Two layers of matrix (M) protein link the RNP with the membrane. Radial inter-layer subunit contacts are fixed within single RNA-N-M1-M2 modules, but flexible lateral and axial interactions allow assembly of polymorphic virions. Together with published structures of recombinant N in various states, our results suggest a mechanism for membrane-coupled self-assembly of VSV and its relatives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4802
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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