Most viruses enter cells via receptor-mediated endocytosis. However, the entry mechanisms used by many of them remain unclear. Also largely unknown is the way in which viruses are targeted to cellular endocytic machinery. We have studied the entry mechanisms of influenza viruses by tracking the interaction of single viruses with cellular endocytic structures in real time using fluorescence microscopy. Our results show that influenza can exploit clathrin-mediated and clathrin- and caveolin-independent endocytic pathways in parallel, both pathways leading to viral fusion with similar efficiency. Remarkably, viruses taking the clathrin-mediated pathway enter cells via the de novo formation of clathrin-coated pits (CCPs) at viral-binding sites. CCP formation at these sites is much faster than elsewhere on the cell surface, suggesting a virus-induced CCP formation mechanism that may be commonly exploited by many other types of viruses.
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