Shape of virus particles may determine respiratory syncytial virus infection outcomes


RSV particles containing pre-F and post-F occur naturally in cell culture. Credit: Vahey lab

The respiratory syncytial virus, more commonly known as RSV, is a highly contagious respiratory virus that can be very serious and even fatal to infants and the elderly. In the summer of 2021, healthcare providers confirmed an out-of-season surge in the virus. This usually causes illness from October to March. The virus has been recognized since the 1950s, but no vaccine is available.

Michael D, a biomedical engineer at the McKelby Institute of Technology at Washington University in St. Louis. Vahey developed a fluorescence system with Jessica Kuppan and Margaret Mitrovich, PhD students in his lab and co-lead authors of the dissertation. Allows him and his lab members to monitor the interactions between viral particles and proteins in the immune system. This helps protect against infections known as complement proteins. Through this system, we found that the virus produced during RSV infection changed shape, changing from long rod-shaped particles to rounder particles. This depends on whether the complement protein is activated.The results of your work will be published online in the journal eLife..

In order for the RSV virus to infect cells, the membranes surrounding each must be fused by the action of the RSV F protein. Antibodies that bind to the F protein can prevent the virus from infecting cells. However, the F protein is a well-known shape shifter and is notorious for its instability, said Vahey, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering studying infectious diseases.

“Ideally, we want the immune system to target forms of F that can cause infection, but this doesn’t always happen,” Vahey said. “We found that as RSV changes from rod-shaped to spherical, F-proteins also tend to change shape. Ultimately, malformed F is often present on the surface of viral particles that activate the complement system. This may instruct the immune system to chase the wrong target. ”

According to Vahey, the findings are important in how biophysical properties such as virus size and shape are recognized by the immune system, developing potential treatments and vaccines. It shows that it may be important to consider when doing so.

No, the COVID vaccine doesn’t stay in your body for years

For more information:
Jessica P Kuppan et al, Morphological changes in respiratory syncytial virus lead to enhanced complement deposition, eLife (2021). DOI: 10.7554 / eLife.70575

Journal information:

Quote: The shape of the virus particles is from on October 21, 2021 for respiratory syncytial virus infection. May determine results (21 October 2021)

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