The study, a collaborative effort between the laboratories of Scripps Research scientists Professor Mark Yeager, M.D., Ph.D., and Professor Francis V. Chisari, M.D., was published in the June 23, 2006 (Volume 22, Issue 6) edition of the journal Molecular Cell.
More than 350 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis B virus, which kills more than a million each year due to acute and chronic hepatitis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. The virus, which attacks the liver, is spread through infected blood transfusions, needle sharing by intravenous drug abusers and sexual contact.
Virions are inert virus particles that carry the virus genome from cell to cell. In the hepatitis B virus, this genetic material is protected by a shell of protein molecules called a capsid. Hepatitis B virions, also known as Dane particles, are approximately 40 nanometers in size, and the capsid is surrounded by a membrane envelope. While the structure of the hepatitis B capsid has been studied intensively in vitro, until this study little was known about the structure and assembly of native capsids present in infected cells in vivo, and even less was known about the structure of mature virions.
"We used cryomicroscopy and image analysis to examine the native structure of HBV [hepatitis B virus ] capsids from transgenic mice and virions isolated from patient blood samples," Yeager said. "By rapidly freezin
Contact: Keith McKeown
Scripps Research Institute