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A mysterious shape-shifting virus makes its way into the closest volcanic hot springs, has finally given some of its secrets, and they have the potential to be used as a new kind of vaccine and pharmaceuticals.
This volcano virus can change its shape, grow tails, and bulge out like a snake that just ate. The weird virus can do this because of its slippery proteins that can slide past one another
It allows the volcano virus to change shape, protecting its DNA from acidic, toxic environments.
In addition to showing researchers how to make new minuscule molecules with similar abilities, the slippery proteins can also help explain the evolution of a virus.
Mutation and Natural Selection
Thanks to billions of years of natural selection and mutation, viruses have become two basic shapes: spheres and rods.
This includes the lemon-like shape or spinodal of the Sulfolobus monocaudavirus 1 (SMV1), or the volcano virus, which has perplexed virologists for almost 20 years now.
Infecting the surrounding microbes that share their volcanic home, the volcanic virus turns them into SMV1 warehouses. First, it expands the host cells up to 20 times their average size, and then it rips them apart well, releasing the new viruses.
To figure out what allows SMV1 to change its shape, the scientists utilized cryo-electron microscopy, which provides near-atomic resolution levels.
Published in Cell, the virus’ method centers around slippery proteins. A hydrophobic or water-hating protein is a protein mixed with the virus’s outer membrane to form seven slippery protein strands.
The scientists think that their findings show that lemon-shaped and spindle viruses have evolved from their rod-shaped, ancient ancestors.
However, those skinny rod viruses can only fit so much of the genetic material. So to allow more genes inside, the volcano virus evolved slippery proteins that let it stretch and swell into a shape of a lemon.
Soluble Proteins or Membrane Proteins
Proteins are primarily classified as membrane proteins or soluble proteins. True to the name, the membrane proteins can only be found in the membranes around cells as well as their organelles. But SMV1’s slippery proteins break the mould.
The proteins’ strength can allow them to be helpful in new vaccines and drug development.