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Anatomy of a Virus

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Anatomy of a Virus
• The tiniest viruses are
20 nm in diameter.
(smaller than a
• They consist of
nucleic acids enclosed
in a protein coat and
sometimes a
membranous envelop.
• The genomes (sets of genes) maybe
Double stranded DNA
Single stranded DNA
Double stranded RNA
Single stranded RNA
• They are called either a DNA or RNA virus
depending on the type of nucleotide in the
• They may be linear or circular
• The smallest have only 4 genes and largest
have several hundred.
• Capsid – a protein shell that covers the viral
genome. They may be
– Rod-shaped
– Polyhedral
– More complex
Capsids are built from large numbers of protein
subunits called CAPSOMERES
The most complex capsids are found in viruses
that infect bacteria – BACTERIOPHAGES
(T1-T7). They have a protein tail piece with
tail fibers that attach to the bacterium
• Viruses are obligate
intracellular parasites
that can reproduce only
within a host cell.
• They do not have
– Enzymes for metabolism
– Do not have ribosomes
– Do not have the
equipment to make
Each type of virus can infect and parasitize
only a limited range of host cells called its
• Some are broad based while others are not.
– Swine flu virus can infect swine or humans
– Rabies can infect may mammals
• Some can parasitize only E. coli
• Eukaryote viruses are usually tissue specific
• Viruses use a “lock and key” fit to identify
Reproduction occurs using lytic
or lysogenic cycles
• The Lytic Cycle
– Culminates in the death
of the host cell
– Virulent viruses
reproduce only by lytic
– Natural selection favors
bacterial mutations with
receptor sites that are
resistant to a particular
phage or that have
restriction enzymes to
destroy the phages.
• The Lysogenic Cycle
– Replication of the viral
genome without
destroying the host
– A temperate virus may
reproduce by either
– Lambda virus:
resembles T4 but only
has a single short tail
• While phages have the potential to wipe out
a bacterial colony in just hours, bacteria
have defenses against phages.
– Natural selection favors bacterial mutants with
receptors sites that are no longer recognized by
a particular type of phage.
– Bacteria produce restriction nucleases that
recognize and cut up foreign DNA, including
certain phage DNA.
• Modifications to the bacteria’s own DNA prevent its
destruction by restriction nucleases.
– But, natural selection favors resistant phage
• In the lysogenic cycle, the phage genome
replicates without destroying the host cell.
• Temperate phages, like phage lambda, use
both lytic and lysogenic cycles.
• Within the host, the virus’ circular DNA
engages in either the lytic or lysogenic
• During a lytic cycle, the viral genes
immediately turn the host cell into a virusproducing factory, and the cell soon lyses
and releases its viral products.
The lambda phage which infects E. coli
demonstrates the cycles of a temperate phage.
Lambda reproduction
Infects an E. coli cell by injecting its DNA
The lambda DNA molecule forms a circle.
Lytic or lysogenic cycles begin
In a lytic cycle, the cell is turned into a lambda
producing factory, the cell lyses and releases its
• In a lysogenic cycle, the viral genome is
incorporated into by genetic recombination into a
specific site on the host cell’s chromosome.
• It is now known as a prophage
• Every time the E. coli divides, it replicated the
phage DNA and passes it along to the daughter
• This enables the phage to replicate without
destroying the host.
• The phages may at some point in time become
active phages that lyse their host cell and releasing
infectious particles.
• There is usually an environment trigger.
• There may be other prophages released as well and
this may change the phenotype of the host. This is
of medical importance. Examples: diphtheria,
botulism and scarlet fever.
• Regardless of the type of virus, the parasite
diverts the host cell’s resources for viral
• The host cell provides:
• Nucleotides for nucleic acid production
• Enzymes
• Ribosomes
• tRNA
• Amino acids
Modes of infection and replication of
animal viruses
• Focus on animals viruses with
a viral envelop
– The envelop is outside the capsid
and helps the virus enter the host
– Generally a lipid bilayer with
glycoprotein spikes
– The envelop fuses with the cell
– The ER of the host cell makes the
membrane proteins which are
transported to the membrane
– New viruses exits the host in a
process similar to exocytosis.
This reproductive cycle
does not kill the host.
• Some viruses have envelopes that are not
derived from the plasma membrane.
• Herpesvirus has an envelop that is derived
from the nuclear membrane.
• These become integrated into the host
genome as a provirus. Once these viruses
are acquired they tend to reoccur through
out a person’s life.
RNA as Viral Genetic Material
• The broadest variety of RNA genomes is
found among viruses are those that infect
• There are three types of single stranded
RNA genomes
• The genome of class IV can directly serve
as mRNA and can be translated into viral
protein immediately after infection
• Most complicated
• Genetic information flows
in the reverse direction
• Have the enzyme reverse
– Transcribes DNA from an
RNA template
• The newly made DNA than
integrates as a provirus
into the nucleus of the
animal cell
• The host’s RNA
polymerase transcribes the
virual DNA into RNA
Viral Diseases in Animals
• The damage caused by a viral disease depends on
the ability of the tissue infected to regenerate by
cell division.
– Cold virus – we recover from
– Poliovirus - attacks
• Vaccines are harmless variants of pathogenic
microbes that stimulate the immune system to
defenses against the pathogen.
• The link between viral infection and the
symptoms it produces is often obscure.
– Some viruses damage or kill cells by triggering the
release of hydrolytic enzymes from lysosomes.
– Some viruses cause the infected cell to produce
toxins that lead to disease symptoms.
– Other have molecular components, such as envelope
proteins, that are toxic.
• In some cases, viral damage is easily repaired
(respiratory epithelium after a cold), but in
others, infection causes permanent damage
(nerve cells after polio).
Copyright В© 2002 Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Benjamin Cummings
• The first vaccine was developed in the late 1700s
by Edward Jenner to fight smallpox.
– Jenner learned from his patients that milkmaids who
had contracted cowpox, a milder disease that usually
infects cows, were resistant to smallpox.
– In his famous experiment in 1796, Jenner infected a
farmboy with cowpox, acquired from the sore of a
milkmaid with the disease.
– When exposed to smallpox, the boy resisted the
– Because of their similarities, vaccination with the
cowpox virus sensitizes the immune system to react
vigorously if exposed to actual smallpox virus.
• Effective vaccines against many other viruses
Copyright В© 2002 Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Benjamin Cummings
• Vaccines can help prevent viral infections, but
they can do little to cure most viral infection
once they occur.
• Antibiotics which can kill bacteria by inhibiting
enzyme or processes specific to bacteria are
powerless again viruses, which have few or no
enzymes of their own.
• Some recently-developed drugs do combat some
viruses, mostly by interfering with viral nucleic
acid synthesis.
– AZT interferes with reverse transcriptase of HIV.
– Acyclovir inhibits herpes virus DNA synthesis.
Copyright В© 2002 Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Benjamin Cummings
6. Plant viruses are serious
agricultural pests
• Plant viruses can stunt plant growth and diminish
crop yields.
• Most are RNA viruses with rod-shaped capsids
produced by a spiral of capsomeres.
Fig. 18.9a
Copyright В© 2002 Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Benjamin Cummings
• In recent years, several very dangerous
“emergent viruses” have risen to prominence.
– HIV, the AIDS virus, seemed to appear suddenly in
the early 1980s.
– Each year new strains of influenza virus cause
millions to miss work or class, and deaths are not
– The deadly Ebola
virus has caused
hemorrhagic fevers
in central Africa
periodically since
Fig. 18.8a
Copyright В© 2002 Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Benjamin Cummings
7. Viroids and prions are infectious
agents even simpler than viruses
• Viroids, smaller and simpler than even viruses,
consist of tiny molecules of naked circular RNA
that infect plants.
• Their several hundred nucleotides do not encode
for proteins but can be replicated by the host’s
cellular enzymes.
• These RNA molecules can disrupt plant
metabolism and stunt plant growth, perhaps by
causing errors in the regulatory systems that
control plant growth.
Copyright В© 2002 Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Benjamin Cummings
8. Viruses may have evolved from
other mobile genetic elements
• Viruses are in the semantic fog between life and
• An isolated virus is biologically inert and yet it
has a genetic program written in the universal
language of life.
• Although viruses are obligate intracellular
parasites that cannot reproduce independently, it
is hard to deny their evolutionary connection to
the living world.
Copyright В© 2002 Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Benjamin Cummings
• Because viruses depend on cells for their own
propagation, it is reasonable to assume that they
evolved after the first cells appeared.
• Most molecular biologists favor the hypothesis
that viruses originated from fragments of cellular
nucleic acids that could move from one cell to
– A viral genome usually has more in common with the
genome of its host than with those of viruses
infecting other hosts.
– Perhaps the earliest viruses were naked bits of nucleic
acids that passed between cells via injured cell
– The evolution of capsid genes may have facilitated
В© 2002infection
Pearson Education, Inc.,
as Benjamin Cummings
• Candidates for the original sources of viral
genomes include plasmids and transposons.
– Plasmids are small, circular DNA molecules that are
separate from chromosomes.
– Plasmids, found in bacteria and in the eukaryote
yeast, can replicate independently of the rest of the
cell and are occasionally be transferred between cells.
– Transposons are DNA segments that can move from
one location to another within a cell’s genome.
• Both plasmids and transposons are mobile
genetic elements.
Copyright В© 2002 Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Benjamin Cummings
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