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Do they just pass through the membrane? Is there some specific transporter or mechanism? Does it vary?

I've seen pictures if retroviruses outside the cell but no details

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Retroviruses, like many other enveloped viruses, exit the cell by a process called budding. The virus uses the host machinery for producing transmembrane proteins to enrich areas of the host cell membrane in viral transmembrane proteins, and co-opts a host process for releasing vesicles. You can see budding illustrated in the context of the life cycle of HIV in this figure from Murray Medical Microbiology.

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The process has been studied in some detail in HIV and other retroviruses.

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Retroviruses are unable to cross the cell membrane

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  • $\begingroup$ While strictly true, this isn't really relevant to the exit of an enveloped virus (like a retrovirus) from a host cell. The nucleic acids and other components of the virion enter a host cell by membrane fusion and exit a host cell by budding. They may never cross from an internal membrane face to an external, but they certainly enter and exit the host cell. $\endgroup$ – De Novo Jul 17 '18 at 22:42

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