ATG9A regulates the dissociation of recycling endosomes from microtubules to form liquid influenza A virus inclusions
It is now established that many viruses that threaten public health establish condensates via phase transitions to complete their lifecycles, and knowledge on such processes may offer new strategies for antiviral therapy. In the case of influenza A virus (IAV), liquid condensates known as viral inclusions, concentrate the 8 distinct viral ribonucleoproteins (vRNPs) that form IAV genome and are viewed as sites dedicated to the assembly of the 8-partite genomic complex. Despite not being delimited by host membranes, IAV liquid inclusions accumulate host membranes inside as a result of vRNP binding to the recycling endocytic marker Rab11a, a driver of the biogenesis of these structures. We lack molecular understanding on how Rab11a-recycling endosomes condensate specifically near the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) exit sites upon IAV infection. We show here that liquid viral inclusions interact with the ER to fuse, divide, and slide. We uncover that, contrary to previous indications, the reported reduction in recycling endocytic activity is a regulated process rather than a competition for cellular resources involving a novel role for the host factor ATG9A. In infection, ATG9A mediates the removal of Rab11a-recycling endosomes carrying vRNPs from microtubules. We observe that the recycling endocytic usage of microtubules is rescued when ATG9A is depleted, which prevents condensation of Rab11a endosomes near the ER. The failure to produce viral inclusions accumulates vRNPs in the cytosol and reduces genome assembly and the release of infectious virions. We propose that the ER supports the dynamics of liquid IAV inclusions, with ATG9A facilitating their formation. This work advances our understanding on how epidemic and pandemic influenza genomes are formed. It also reveals the plasticity of recycling pathway endosomes to undergo condensation in response to infection, disclosing new roles for ATG9A beyond its classical involvement in autophagy.