Scientists from University of California, Los Angeles, have revealed a 3-D structure of bullet-shaped virus, which has the potential to fight cancer and HIV.
Vesicular stomatitis virus, or VSV, has long been a model system for studying and understanding the life cycle of negative-strand RNA viruses, which include viruses that cause influenza, measles and rabies.
Research has shown that VSV has the potential to be genetically modified to serve as an anti-cancer agent, exercising high selectivity in killing cancer cells while sparing healthy cells, and as a potent vaccine against HIV.
"Structures of individual rhabdovirus proteins have been reported in Science and other high-profile journals, but until now, how they are organized into a bullet shape has remained unclear," said study author Z. Hong Zhou, UCLA professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics and a member of the CNSI.
"The special shape of VSV- a bullet head with a short, helical trunk- has lent to its evasion from three-dimensional structural studies," Zhou added.
They revealed the 3-D structure of the trunk section of VSV but have further deduced the architectural organization of the entire bullet-shaped virion through cryo-electron microscopy and an integrated use of image-processing methods.
"Our structure provides some of the first clues for understanding VSV-derived vaccine pseudotypes and for optimizing therapeutic VSV variants," Zhou said.
"This work moves our understanding of the biology of this large and medically important class of viruses ahead in a dramatic way. The next stage of research for our team will be to reveal the details of molecular interactions at the atomic scale using advanced imaging instruments now available at CNSI," Zhou added.
The study appears in journal Science.