Understanding how viruses mature – looking for weaknesses that can be exploited as therapeutic targets
Viruses spread through our bodies in similar ways to other mammals, but we can also learn from infected insects and plants too. Here, researchers investigate the structure of virus-like particles similar to the insect virus Nudaurelia capensis omega using plant cells as a sort of natural virus factory. During infection, a virus breaks open its protective case known as a capsid and injects genetic material into the host cell, which is then 'tricked' into making many copies of the virus, including new capsids. It’s during this stage – how the capsid matures from an earlier structure (called a procapsid) into a capsid capable of infection – that scientists want to investigate. The team compare molecular details spotted in cryo-electron microscopy images, to those of mature capsids, finding structural changes that may one day be exploited as weaknesses to stop a viral spread.
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