Nature’s lethal shape-shifter

Every picture tells a story… none more so than this detailed visualisation of a strain of the norovirus. Created from 13,000 separate images taken by an electron microscope, it reveals in rich detail the structure of the virus. It shows bump-like protrusions on the outside of the virus capsid, the protein shell that holds the genome.  Joseph Snowden, a PhD researcher from the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology , said it revealed that the protein casing did not keep a fixed shape, as the protrusions on the surface would extend, retract and rotate.  This dynamic shape shifting may hold clues as to why the noroviruses are such potent pathogens, responsible for over 200,000 deaths worldwide each year, mainly in low-to-middle-income countries. In the UK, noroviruses cause the winter vomiting bug that forces the closure of schools and hospitals.

Read the full press release on the University of Leeds website 

Read Dynamics in the murine norovirus capsid revealed by high-resolution cryo-EM on the PLOS Biology website