Structural biologists Juha Huiskonen and Sarah Butcher from the Academy of Finland Virus Research Centre of Excellence, University of Helsinki, have determined the structure of the double-stranded RNA virus (phi6) in co-operation with their colleagues in the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). The virus in question is a bacteriophage, which means that instead of eukaryotic cells it infects bacteria. To the researchers' surprise, its structure turned out to be very similar to human viruses, such as rotavirus. Rotaviruses are the most common cause of severe diarrhoea, particularly in neonatal babies and young children. Diarrhoea is one of the main causes of infant mortality in developing countries.
By studying the viruses in bacteria, researchers can determine various characteristics about the life cycle of viruses that are much harder to study using dangerous human viruses. The newly described structure of the bacteriophage furthers researchers’ understanding of how the particles of the double-stranded RNA virus are formed in the host cell. However, it is still unclear how the virus distinguishes its’ own genetic information from that of other corresponding cellular molecules. Studying these events with the bacteriophage will help the understanding of similar events in human viruses.
The similarity of double-stranded RNA viruses that infect different organisms is probably due to their mutual, primitive origin. During evolution, the basic structure has been maintained even though the gene sequences of the viruses have changed dramatically. Corresponding similarities between different viruses have earlier been detected between a double-stranded DNA bacteriophage and an archaeal virus.
The structure of the bacteriophage was studied with electron microscopy and computational methods.
Sarah Butcher | alfa
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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