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Chapter 4 : Virion Structure
Category: Viruses and Viral Pathogenesis
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Picornaviruses were the first animal viruses whose structure was determined in atomic detail and, as of October 2009, the Protein Data Bank (PDB) registered 53 structure depositions for picornaviruses. These data have contributed significantly to the understanding of picornavirus evolution, assembly, host-cell interaction, host adaptation, and antigenic variation and are providing the basis for novel therapeutic strategies. Subsequently classified as a picornavirus, the general morphology of FMDV could not be visualized until the advent of the electron microscope, when negative-stained images to a resolution of 4 to 5 nm revealed rather smooth round particles of ~30 nm diameter. The current classification of picornaviruses is based on genome and protein sequence properties which are derived from the interplay of the error-prone replication mechanism of the virus with the process of natural selection. Differences in physical properties, such as buoyant density in cesium chloride and pH stability, underpinned the early classification of picornaviruses. Virus capsids recognize susceptible cells by attachment to specific receptors on the host cell membrane, thereby determining the host range and tropism of infection. The majority of antibodies are weak neutralizers that appear to operate by using the two arms of the antibody to cross-link different virus particles, causing aggregation.
Picornavirus capsid-related structures visualized by cryo-EM or X-ray crystallography