Viruses on the Attack

Viruses on the Attack
Revealing visuals show details of a common mechanism for infection

A National Science Foundation Press Release can be found here.

Researchers have determined the mechanics that allow some viruses to invade cells by piercing their outer membranes and digesting their cell walls.
The results have a dual benefit: they show the inner workings of complex, viral nanomachines infecting cells (in a process nearly identical to some viral infections of human cells) and the images provide design tips for engineers hoping to build the gene delivery devices of the future.
The study, by researchers from Purdue University and the Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry in Moscow, appears in the August 20, 2004, issue of Cell.
The structure of bacteriophage T4 – a virus that attacks the familiar pathogen Escherichia coli (E. coli).
Purdue University release available here.

Shown is an artist’s conception of the T4 virus just after it has penetrated the cell membrane of the E. coli bacterium, which the virus infects. Purdue University researchers have revealed the conformational changes undergone by the multicolored “baseplate” (at center of image, amid the virus’ “legs”), enabling scientists to visualize the infection process with a movie, from which this still image was taken. Improved understanding of the baseplate’s behavior could shed light on the infection processes of other viruses. (Purdue University graphic/Michael G. Rossmann laboratory and associates)
Watch video at Wired here.

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