Black Creek Canal (BCC) virus is a newly identified hantavirus from Florida which is carried by the cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus) and is associated with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). We have investigated the interaction of BCC virus with polarized epithelial cells to examine whether entry and release of this virus occur at specific plasma membrane domains. The polarized Vero C1008 monkey kidney cell line was grown on permeable filters and infected with BCC virus either through the apical or basolateral surface. As shown by indirect immunofluorescence and radioimmunoprecipitation analysis, cells infected through the apical surface demonstrated a high level of susceptibility to BCC virus infection. In contrast, Vero C1008 cells infected basolaterally exhibited a barely detectable level of BCC virus-synthesized proteins. Titration of virus from apical and basolateral media of infected cells has demonstrated that virus titers released from the apical surface are about
1,200-fold greater than the titer of virus released into the basolateral media. The site of BCC virus release from polarized cells is, therefore, different from that previously described for release of other members of the family Bunyaviridae and may reflect one of the determinants of hantavirus pathogenesis. In addition, we have shown that BCC viral glycoproteins are expressed at the plasma membrane on the apical surface of polarized cells. Electron microscopy studies of the infected cells revealed evidence of BCC virus budding at the plasma membrane. This strongly indicates that, in contrast to most other members of the Bunyaviridae, BCC virus is assembled at the plasma membrane. Since the same site of virus assembly was recently described for Sin Nombre virus, it is likely that all of the new American hantaviruses associated with HPS utilize this same type of virus maturation.