Intracellular organelles enwrapped in membranes along with a complex network of vesicles trafficking in, out and inside the cellular environment are one of the main features of eukaryotic cells. Given their central role in cell life, compartmentalization and mechanisms allowing their maintenance despite continuous crosstalk among different organelles have been deeply investigated over the past years. Here, we review the multiple functions exerted by the endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) machinery in driving membrane remodeling and fission, as well as in repairing physiological and pathological membrane damages. In this way, ESCRT machinery enables different fundamental cellular processes, such as cell cytokinesis, biogenesis of organelles and vesicles, maintenance of nuclear–cytoplasmic compartmentalization, endolysosomal activity. Furthermore, we discuss some examples of how viruses, as obligate intracellular parasites, have evolved to hijack the ESCRT machinery or part of it to execute/optimize their replication cycle/infection. A special emphasis is given to the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) interaction with the ESCRT proteins, considering the peculiarities of this interplay and the need for HSV-1 to cross both the nuclear-cytoplasmic and the cytoplasmic-extracellular environment compartmentalization to egress from infected cells.
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