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Virus Attack with Molecular Trojan Horse


In the latest January 10th issue of Cell, a discovery is published by Barends et al. of Leiden University about the artful way by which an infecting plant virus succeeds in conquering the protein factories (ribosomes) of a host cell for subsequent enforced production of viral proteins. To this aim, the virus uses a molecular ’Trojan Horse’ mimicking the shape of transfer RNA, the regular molecular ’van’ for the delivery of amino acids as protein building-stones into those factories.

In the case of Turnip Yellow Mosaic Virus, the transfer-RNA mimic appears to have also smuggled the complete viral RNA in its cargo, with a coercive programme for the production of the viral replicase enzyme. As a result of the replicase action, many new copies of virus RNA are generated in the interior of the host cell for subsequent production of a load of new virus particles. Also other RNA viruses might deploy a comparable ’Trojan Horse’ in their molecular ’struggle for life’.

From a philosophical point this novel mechanism may also inspire to further image forming about the molecular evolution of ribosomal protein synthesis at the genesis of primordial life from an RNA world.

Dr. Barend Kraal | alfa
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