Combining molecular biology approaches and advanced optical microscopy, we (our lab and Dr. Wen Chang's lab at the Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica) have been investigating virus-receptor interaction in the early-stage viral infection. Recently, using the ultrahigh-speed optical technique developed in our lab, we successfully captured the dynamic process of single vaccinia virus particles attaching to the cell plasma membrane at ultrahigh spatial precision and temporal resolution. From such measurements, we are able to study the virus-membrane interaction at the molecular length scale and microsecond timescale for the very first time. We observed that the vaccinia virus particle is confined within a zone of hundreds of nanometers in diameter within a second after attachment. Interestingly, under our ultrahigh-speed observation (100,000 frames per second), we found that within the confined zone, the virus laterally explored the plasma membrane at very high diffusion coefficient and meanwhile got transiently trapped at numerous nanoscopic sites. These transient (sub-millisecond) nano-confinements might be the results of virus-receptor interaction.
Early stage viral infection
Unexpected disease outbreaks caused by rare infectious agents from different continents have been a real threat in our lives. Furthermore, to fight against diseases, specially engineered viruses are used as the vaccine. It is therefore vital to understand how a virus infects a cell and how it initiates the immune response. We use advanced optical microscope techniques to study virus-membrane interaction at ultrahigh spatiotemporal resolution.
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