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First-ever images of developing dengue virus obtained at Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - High-quality images of a virus still forming in its cellular host shed light on how viruses reproduce, knowledge that could prove important to the development of antiviral drugs.

A team including Purdue University's Michael Rossmann and Richard Kuhn has solved the structure of the immature dengue virus, which is related to West Nile virus and yellow fever. Dengue is a mosquito-borne pathogen that kills more than 24,000 people in the world annually. The pair solved the structure of the mature dengue virus particle last year (see related story), and Rossmann said the new findings were a significant step toward unraveling the behavior of viruses.

"We're beginning to dissect the individual steps in a virus' life cycle," said Rossmann, who is Henley Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences in Purdue's School of Science. "We hope to learn a great deal more about viral development so that approaches to preventing infection become conceivable."

The study, a collaboration among Rossmann, Kuhn and Tim Baker at Purdue and James Straus at the California Institute of Technology, appears in the June 2 issue of EMBO.

The research group used an advanced imaging technique, known as cryoelectron microscopy, to take 3-D pictures of the dengue particle - the term experts use to denote a single virus. While viruses are not considered to be "alive" by the standards we apply to plants and animals, the team's images have revealed that particles go through a complex developmental process.

"We have discovered that an astonishing structural change occurs between the immature and mature dengue shells," said Kuhn, also professor of biology. "We don't yet know how it all happens - but even though we have only seen two points along the viral assembly line so far, we can tell it's quite a dynamic metamorphosis."

Compared to the mature dengue particle, for example, the immature form is 15 percent greater in diameter
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Contact: Chad Boutin
cboutin@purdue.edu
765-494-2081
Purdue University
18-Jun-2003


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