The 3D ultrastructure of cells infected by the tick-borne encephalitis virus revealed by ICGEB researchers


A recent study published in the prestigious Journal of Virology describes how the virus modifies intracellular membranes to create a protective environment for its own replication and shows a high-resolution 3D image of the cytoplasmic compartments of tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) obtained by electron tomography through a collaborative effort between A. Marcello's Molecular Virology lab in Trieste and that of R. Bartenschlager in Heidelberg.

The full article describes how the virus modifies intracellular membranes to create a protective environment for its own replication. 'Seeing is believing' says A. Marcello 'only by providing high definition imaging of viral infections can we fully understand the life cycle of pathogenic viruses'.

Lisa Miorin, who performed the work while a PhD student in Trieste, started by developing a novel technique pioneered in the laboratory to track viral genomes in living cells. She observed that following infection the viral replicated RNA was progressively immobilized within perinuclear compartments that protected viral replication from the host cellular innate antiviral response. To analyze these structures in more detail, Dr. Miorin subsequently moved to Heidelberg, thanks to a short-term EMBO Fellowship, to gain access to advanced electron tomography techniques. Together with Ines Romero-Brey they went on to show that these compartments were composed of small vesicles where the viral RNA is replicated and larger compartments where the replicated RNA is triaged for further rounds of translation/replication or assembly. Dr. Miorin is currently a postdoc in the group of Adolfo Garcia Sastre at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York where she continues to pursue her interest in the host response to viral infections.

The ICGEB PhD Programme boasts many such success stories, and is based on the selection of highly motivated candidates also to ensure their progression to dynamic, international environments which help them become talented, independent scientists.

tl_files/News2013/FIGURE_1_TBEV.jpgOriginal image showing the 3D reconstruction of a cell infected by the TBE virus showing the membranes of the ER (green) with the replication vesicles induced by the virus (yellow) and the assembled new virions (red).

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Image as shown on the August 2013 issue of the Journal of Virology

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