Researchers develop virus live streams to study virus infection

Live-capture of virus-infected cells. After infection of the host cell, one tries to replicate the virus (green dots), and interfere with viral replication by invading the host cell’s nucleus (blue) and shutting down the host cell’s protein production. Tries to stop (red)). Credit: Sann Borsma, © Hubrecht Institute

Researchers at the Hubertech Institute and Utrecht University have developed an advanced technique for monitoring virus infection. Researchers from the groups of Marvin Tenbaum and Frank van Kuppveld hope that the technique can be used to study a variety of viruses, including the SARS-CoV-2-virus that is the virus responsible for the current pandemic . Therefore a technique called VIRIM (virus infection real-time imaging) is very valuable for gaining insight into virus infection in the human body. Ultimately, this may lead to more targeted treatments for viral infections. The results were published in the journal Scientific Cell On 13 November.

Viruses have a large negative impact on society. This is demonstrated once again by the enormous consequences of the current global outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 for personal physical and mental health and for the economy.


RNA viruses represent a large group of viruses that carry their genetic information as RNA, a molecule that is similar to DNA. After infection of a host cell, an RNA virus hijackes many functions of the host cell and transforms it into a factory that produces the virus. In this way, the intruder can quickly replicate inside cells in the body. The new virus particles are subsequently released through the respiratory tract and can infect others. Examples of RNA viruses include coronaviruses, hepatitis C virus, zika virus, and enteroviruses — a group of viruses that includes rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, coccasaccurate, viral meningitis, and encephalitis, and polioviruses, which cause paralytic polyautomy. It is made.

Until now, the available technology could only provide a snapshot of virus-infected cells. In other words, researchers can observe infected cells at a given time, but monitoring the virus infection process from beginning to end was not possible. Newly developed microscope technology turns VIRIM: Researchers from groups of Marvin Tenbaum (Hubrecht) and Frank van Kuppeveld (Utrecht University) developed this advanced method, with which to visualize the entire course of virus infection in the laboratory with great accuracy May go. “This new method enables us to address many important questions about the virus,” says Sann Boersma, the study’s first author.

Upon infection of a host cell, only one viral RNA molecule is present (spots at the beginning of infection). During replication, the virus mimics the RNA molecule (increase in spots). VIRIM (virus infection real-time imaging) enables analysis of replication directly from the onset of infection. Credit: Sann Borsma, © Hubrecht Institute

Fluorescent virus

The method uses SunTag – a technique first developed by Tenenboom – in an enterovirus, a group of viruses that has extensive expertise in Van Kuppveveld. Suntag is introduced into the RNA of the virus and labels the viral protein with a very bright fluorescent tag. Using this fluorescent tag, viral proteins can be visualized using a microscope, allowing researchers to see when and where and how the virus produces its protein and replicates in its host cell. is. VIRIM is much more sensitive than other methods: protein production can be detected from a single viral RNA. This allows researchers to track the course of infection from the beginning.


Cells have their own defense system to detect and eliminate the virus upon infection. Once a virus enters a cell, a competition arises between the virus and the host cell: the purpose of the virus is to hijack the cell to replicate itself, while the host tries hard to stop it. Using VIRIM, researchers were able to see the result of this competition. They found that in a subset of cells, the host cell won the competition. Borsma: “These host cells were infected with the virus, but the virus failed to replicate.” This increased the curiosity of Borsma and his colleagues and led to a new experiment.

Upon infection of a host cell, only one viral RNA molecule is present (spots at the beginning of infection). In this host cell, the virus fails to replicate, as no increase in spots can be detected. Credit: Sann Borsma, © Hubrecht Institute

Heel of virus

The researchers helped the host cells by increasing their defense system. As it turns out, long ago viral replication often failed in cells that were promoted, preventing the virus from taking over the host. “The first step in the replication process is the Akilis heel of this virus: the moment determines whether the virus can spread further,” explains Borsma. “If the host cell does not manage to eradicate the virus at the beginning of the infection, the virus will repeat the competition and win.” Borsma and his colleagues used a Picorna virus for the development of VIRIM. Members of this virus family can cause serious illnesses ranging from the common cold to polio.

VIRIM enables the identification of weak stages of various types of viruses. Researchers expect the technique to be valuable for research in several lethal viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. Borsma explains: “Understanding viral replication and -spreading can help us determine the Achilles’ heel of a virus. This knowledge can contribute to the development of treatments, for example a treatment that can cause a weakening in the life of the virus. Intervenes during the moment. It allows. ” We hope to create more efficient treatments and reduce the effects of the virus on society. ”

How picornaviruses enter the host cell

more information:
Borsma et al., Translation and replication dynamics of single RNA viruses. Cell (2020). DOI: 10.1016 / j.cell / 2020.10.019

Journal Information:

Provided by the Hubrecht Institute

Quotes: Researchers Develop Virus Live Stream to Study Virus Infection (2020, November 13) Retrieved November 14, 2020, from was done.

This document is subject to copyright. No part may be reproduced without written permission, except for any fair which serves for the purpose of personal study or research. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Leave a Reply