MFPL: Debunking misconceptions about viral infection

The Blaas group has recently discovered that part of text-book depiction about viral uncoating might lead to misconception

Common cold RNA exits tail-first during viral uncoating
Viral particles of the common cold invade human cells and release their genomic RNA enslaving the cell to do its bidding and produce myriads of new viral particles. The researchers of the Blaas group were able to observe this process every step of the way and discovered something unexpected. “The data we collected showed that the RNA exits with its tail first” explains Dieter Blaas, corresponding author of the study. “This was unexpected, because text-book and review depictions of the process often portrayed the RNA as exiting head-first.”

Text-book knowledge was a silent agreement
The Blaas group started working on this question, because they noticed that the current depictions of the process were more of a silent agreement in the field than based on empirical data. “No one really bothered to check this until now”, so Dieter. “It took us three years and a lot of methodology to settle this question in our lab”. The main authors Shushan Harutyunyan and Mohit Kumar spent the larger part of their doctoral work on this question. The results were published in the renowned journal PLoS Pathogens.

Original publication in PLoS Pathogens
Harutyunyan S, Kumar M, Sedivy A, Subirats X, Kowalski H, Köhler G, Blaas D. Viral uncoating is directional: exit of the genomic RNA in a common cold virus starts with the poly-(A) tail at the 3'-end.
In: PLoS Pathog (2013).

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