Viral cell-to-cell spread: Conventional and non-conventional ways

Nicolas Cifuentes-Munoz, Farah El Najjar, Rebecca Ellis Dutch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

25 Scopus citations


A critical step in the life cycle of a virus is spread to a new target cell, which generally involves the release of new viral particles from the infected cell which can then initiate infection in the next target cell. While cell-free viral particles released into the extracellular environment are necessary for long distance spread, there are disadvantages to this mechanism. These include the presence of immune system components, the low success rate of infection by single particles, and the relative fragility of viral particles in the environment. Several mechanisms of direct cell-to-cell spread have been reported for animal viruses which would avoid the issues associated with cell-free particles. A number of viruses can utilize several different mechanisms of direct cell-to-cell spread, but our understanding of the differential usage by these pathogens is modest. Although the mechanisms of cell-to-cell spread differ among viruses, there is a common exploitation of key pathways and components of the cellular cytoskeleton. Remarkably, some of the viral mechanisms of cell-to-cell spread are surprisingly similar to those used by bacteria. Here we summarize the current knowledge of the conventional and non-conventional mechanisms of viral spread, the common methods used to detect viral spread, and the impact that these mechanisms can have on viral pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVirus Assembly and Exit Pathways
EditorsMargaret Kielian, Thomas C. Mettenleiter, Marilyn J. Roossinck
Number of pages41
StatePublished - Jan 2020

Publication series

NameAdvances in Virus Research
ISSN (Print)0065-3527
ISSN (Electronic)1557-8399

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by NIH grants AI051517 and AI140758 to R.E.D. and Fondecyt Inicio grant 11180269 to N.C.M. Images were created using .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Cell-to-cell spread
  • Filopodia
  • Nanotubes
  • Syncytia
  • Virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


Dive into the research topics of 'Viral cell-to-cell spread: Conventional and non-conventional ways'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this