16 January 2013

Unique video: Virus infects cell

Scientists captured the virus at the moment of attack on a living cell

DailyTechInfo based on KurzweilAINetwork: Virus caught in the act of infecting a cellFor the first time, scientists were able to see firsthand all the changes in the structure of the virus that occur at the time of the attack of these E.coli bacteria by the virus.

In order to infect a cell, the virus first needs to find a suitable cell for this, then find a place to penetrate and finally "drive" its genetic material inside this cell. All the subtleties of this process performed by the T7 virus were seen and filmed in real time by Ian Molineux, professor of biology at the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, and his colleagues from the Health Science Center of the Medical School of the same University of Texas. (Article by Bo Hu et al. The Bacteriophage T7 Virion Undergoes Extensive Structural Remodeling During Infection published in the journal Science – VM.)

While searching for an object to attack, the virus shortens its body and releases one or two probes, the thinnest tentacles, which in the amount of six pieces are in a collapsed state near the lower part of the virus body.

After a cell suitable for an attack is detected by a virus, it releases the remaining tentacles and, like a spider-like planetary apparatus, begins exploring the surface of the cell, moving in a random direction with the help of tentacles that have become legs at this time.

In certain places of the cell, according to the signs of changes in the structure of the cell membrane known to him, the virus finds the optimal place for penetration. At this point, the virus extracts its "weapon", a tubular structure consisting of protein molecules of certain types.

This "needle from a syringe" penetrates through the cell membrane and releases genetic material, the DNA chains of the virus, into the cell. After the infection of the cell, the protein "weapon" of the virus is pulled back into the body of the virus, and the cell membrane tightens and restores its integrity.

"Although many of the details of the infection process that we observe are very specific to the T7 virus, observing the full process radically changes our understanding of how viruses attack and infect cells in general," says Molineux.

It should be particularly noted that this case is the first in the history of science when scientists were able to directly observe the process of infection of a cell with a virus in real time. In order to do this, scientists used a combination of several techniques from the field of genetics and cryo-electron tomography. Cryo-electron tomography is in many ways similar to the process of conventional computer magnetic resonance imaging, but it can be used to study objects thousands of times smaller than the diameter of human hair.

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