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Molecule of the Month: Dengue Virus

by PhilipJ on 1 July 2008

Dengus Virus

Dengue virus is a major threat to health in tropical countries around the world. It is limited primarily to the tropics because it is transmitted by a tropical mosquito, but even with this limitation, 50-100 million people are infected each year. Most infected people experience dengue fever, with terrible headaches and fever and rashes that last a week or two. In some cases, however, the virus weakens the circulatory system and can lead to deadly hemorrhaging. Researchers are now actively studying the virus to try to develop drugs to cure infection, and vaccines to block infection before it starts.

Dengue virus is a small virus that carries a single strand of RNA as its genome. The genome encodes only ten proteins. Three of these are structural proteins that form the coat of the virus and deliver the RNA to target cells, and seven of them are nonstructural proteins that orchestrate the production of new viruses once the virus gets inside the cell. The outermost structural protein, termed the envelope protein, is shown here from PDB entry 1k4r. The virus is enveloped with a lipid membrane, and 180 identical copies of the envelope protein are attached to the surface of the membrane by a short transmembrane segment. The job of the envelope protein is to attach to a cell surface and begin the process of infection.

More from David Goodsell here.

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