Role of Membrane Rafts in Viral Infection

Tadanobu Takahashi, Takashi Suzuki*
Department of Biochemistry, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Shizuoka, and Global COE Program for Innovation in Human Health Sciences, Shizuoka 422-8526, Japan

© 2009 Takahashi and Suzuki

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Shizuoka, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Global COE Program for Innovation in Human Health Sciences, 52-1 Yada Shizuoka 422-8526, Japan; Tel: 81-54-264-5725; Fax: 81-54-264-5725; E-mail:


Membrane rafts are small (10-200 nm), heterogeneous, highly dynamic, sterol- and sphingolipid-enriched domains that compartmentalize cellular processes. Many studies have established that membrane rafts play an important role in the process of virus infection cycle and virus-associated diseases. It is well known that many viral components or virus receptors are concentrated in the lipid microdomains. Viruses are divided into four main classes, nonenveloped RNA virus, enveloped RNA virus, nonenveloped DNA virus, and enveloped DNA virus. General virus infection cycle is also classified into two sections, the early stage (entry) and the late stage (assembly and budding of virion). Caveola-dependent endocytosis has been investigated mostly by analysis of cell entry of the SV40 representative of polyomaviruses. Thus, the study of membrane rafts has been partially advanced by virological researches. Membrane rafts also act as a scaffold of many cellular signal transductions. Involvement of membrane rafts in many virus-associated diseases is often responsible for up- or down-regulation of cellular signal transductions. What is the role of membrane rafts in virus replications? Viruses do not necessarily require and probably utilize membrane rafts for more efficiency in virus entry, viral genome replication, high-infective virion production, and cellular signaling activation toward advantageous virus replication. In this review, we described the involvement of membrane rafts in the virus life cycle and virus-associated diseases.