A computer image shows a bacterial cell invaded by a virus. The virus uses the cell to copy itself many times. It has built a protein compartment (red, rough circle surrounding the center) to house its DNA. Viral heads (blue, smaller pentagonal shapes spread through out) and tails (pink, rod shaped near the edges) are essential parts of a finished viral particle. The small, light blue particles are the bacterium’s own protein-making ribosomes.
Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of California, San Francisco, used cutting-edge techniques to watch a bacteria-infecting virus (bacteriophage) set up its particle-making factory inside a host cell.
This image shows this happening inside a Pseudomonas chlororaphis, a soil-borne bacterium that protects plants against fungal pathogens. The virus builds a compartment (red, rough circle surrounding the center) that helps organize an assembly line for making copies of itself. The compartment looks like a cell nucleus, which bacteria do not have, and it functions like a nucleus by keeping activities that directly involve DNA separate from other cellular functions.
To understand the steps the virus takes to hijack and alter bacteria so effectively, the researchers stained viral proteins. This approach allowed them to watch the process through a light microscope. The nucleus-like compartment appears right after a virus particle infects the cell, and viral DNA gets copied inside it. Later, the proteins that make up the virus’ head begin to appear outside the compartment. When assembled, the viral heads dock beside the compartment and are filled with copies of viral DNA. ···························
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Image Credit: Vorrapon Chaikeeratisak, Kanika Khanna, Axel Brilot and Katrina Nguyen.