Using electron microscopy and three-dimensional computer reconstruction, UC San Diego biologists and chemists have produced the most detailed image yet of the protein envelope of an asymmetrical virus and the viral DNA packed within, they report this week in the journal Structure. The image, with a resolution of less than a nanometer, or a millionth of a millimeter, will help to unravel how the virus locks onto its host and infects the cells by injecting its DNA.
By assembling more than 12,000 microscopic views of frozen viral particles from different angles, UCSD chemists Jinghua Tang, Norman Olson and Timothy Baker, a professor of chemistry and biological sciences, have determined the structure of a bacteriophage called phi29 with a resolution finer than 8 Angstroms (one Angstrom equals a tenth of a nanometer). Their project was part of a long-term collaboration with molecular virologist Dwight Anderson and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota.
Although the structures of spherical viruses with a high degree of symmetry have been resolved using similar methods, many more images were required to accomplish the same task for the head-and-tail shape of phi29. The UCSD scientists said their images of phi29 are twice as fine as those created in previous efforts to visualize viruses with a similar shape.
A comparison between images of the virus with and without its DNA cargo revealed that the DNA twists tightly into a donut shape, or toroid, in the neck of the virus between its head and tail. “This highly distorted DNA structure is unlike anything previously seen or even predicted in a virus,” said Timothy Baker who headed the research team. “It’s an improbably tight turn for DNA, which is generally considered inflexible over very small distances.”
During assembly of the virus, a molecular motor in the neck winds the DNA strand into a tight coil within the head. “It’s under tremendous pressure -- about 20 times that of champagne in a bottle,” said Tang, the lead author of the paper.
The knot-like shape of the toroid, along with interlocking bumps in the protein envelope, may keep the DNA wedged into the capsid until the virus docks onto the host cell.
"It's poised in this tube waiting to go through the bacterial wall," Baker said. "All of the components work together to create an infection machine."
Susan Brown | EurekAlert!
Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood
23.02.2017 | American Chemical Society
New Mechanisms of Gene Inactivation may prevent Aging and Cancer
23.02.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
23.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2017 | Earth Sciences
23.02.2017 | Life Sciences