Nucleic acids constitute one of the main components of viruses by molecular weight, and the viral genome is often strongly confined into a small volume of the capsid. This is true for most prokaryotic viruses such as double-stranded (ds) DNA/RNA phages, dsDNA archaeal viruses as well as many eukaryotic viruses (e.g. herpesviruses and reoviruses). The length of ds-genome in those viruses is several hundred times longer than the diameter of the capsid. We recently found that this internal DNA stress leads to 20 atmospheres capsid pressure in human Herpesviruses. This genome pressure is responsible for DNA ejection into a cell nucleus during infection. The aim of this project is to explain how the physically stressed state of the confined viral DNA directly affects the virus infectious cycle. This research involves a quantitative biophysical approach to virology using Atomic Force Microscopy and Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS).
(with possibility to conduct research at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA and Lund University, Sweden)
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