Purdue University scientists have peered inside a virus and visualized for the first time how it produces and exports genetic materials into a host cell, an advance in fundamental research that also could have implications for the development of antiviral agents.
This cross section of a reovirus shows features down to 7.6-angstrom resolution, a scale that has allowed Purdue Universitys Tim Baker and his research team to examine the inner features of the viral particle. Visible for the first time within the virus are several tiny "factories," shown here in red, which convert raw materials from a victim cells interior into RNA messages instructing the cell to begin manufacturing more viruses. The technology Bakers team used to examine the reovirus could be used to reveal other viruses structures, providing fundamental knowledge important for developing potential antiviral agents. (Photo by Purdue University/Department of Biology)
Using improved microscope technology, a team including Purdue’s Timothy S. Baker and a colleague at Harvard has determined the structure of a reovirus (short for "respiratory enteric orphan" virus) down to the 7.6-angstrom scale, better than twice the 18-angstrom resolution previously available. The newly obtained structure shows not only the molecular composition of the virus but even the position and orientation of those molecules.
"We have visualized the innards of a human reovirus at an unprecedentedly high resolution," said Baker, who is professor of biology in Purdue’s School of Science. "We can now look at the components of the viral machine to see how they work, which hopefully will give us insight into how it manufactures the genetic weapons it uses to infect cells."
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