NIH 3T3 cells were infected in culture with the oncogenic retrovirus, mouse leukemia virus (MuLV), and studied using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Cells fixed with glutaraldehyde alone, and those postfixed with osmium tetroxide, were imaged under ethanol according to procedures that largely preserved their structures. With glutaraldehyde fixation alone, the lipid bilayer was removed and maturing virions were seen emerging from the cytoskeletal matrix. With osmium tetroxide postfixation, the lipid bilayer was maintained and virions were observable still attached to the cell surfaces. The virions on the cell surfaces were imaged at high resolution and considerable detail of the arrangement of protein assemblies on their surfaces was evident. Infected cells were also labeled with primary antibodies against the virus env surface protein, followed by secondary antibodies conjugated with colloidal gold particles. Other 3T3 cells in culture were infected with MuLV containing a mutation in the gPr80gag gene. Those cells were observed by AFM not to produce normal MuLV on their surfaces, or at best, only at very low levels. The cell surfaces, however, became covered with tubelike structures that appear to result from a failure of the virions to properly undergo morphogenesis, and to fail in budding completely from the cell's surfaces.
Kuznetsov, Y. G., Datta, S., Kothari, N. H., Greenwood, A., Fan, H., & McPherson, A. (2002). Atomic force microscopy investigation of fibroblasts infected with wild-type and mutant murine leukemia virus (MuLV). Biophysical Journal, 83(6), 3665–3674. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(02)75366-6