Purdue University biologists have determined the structure of the West Nile virus, a development that could greatly augment our understanding of the virus life cycle.
This figure shows a surface-shaded image of the West Nile virus particle produced by Purdue University biologists using cryoelectron microscopy. The surface is composed of proteins that enable the virus to bind with and invade a host cell. The particle is approximately 50 nanometers in diameter, or about 1/1000th of the width of a human hair. (Purdue Department of Biological Sciences image)
This image shows the orientation of the envelope protein molecules that compose the surface of a West Nile virus particle. The major surface protein is composed of three domains color-coded pink, yellow and blue. The proteins self-assemble in a host cell, forming a well-organized geometric shape. Knowledge of the proteins structure could help scientists in the effort to develop antiviral agents. (Purdue Department of Biological Sciences image)
Using cryoelectron microscopy and advanced imaging techniques, the Purdue team has determined the orientation of the major surface proteins in a West Nile viral particle. Because these proteins are instrumental in allowing the virus to bind to and invade a host cell, the research could be a step forward in combating the deadly mosquito-borne disease.
"We can now clearly understand how these proteins interact with one another," said Richard J. Kuhn, a professor of biological sciences in Purdues School of Science. "We cant cure West Nile yet, but we can now start thinking about how to interfere with these interactions, which could be a key to stopping the infections progress."
Chad Boutin | Purdue News
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