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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Creating From Scratch an RNA-Based Fiend
24 December 1996 6:00 pm
Scientists have for the first time reconstituted a complex form of RNA virus from only its matching DNA template. This new approach to engineering the bunyamwera virus, which has been implicated in birth defects, could provide a way to concoct vaccines against other members of the bunyavirus family, which includes hantavirus and other nasty human pathogens.
A team led by virologist Richard Elliott of the University of Glasgow in Scotland took on a big challenge: creating a segmented, negative-strand RNA virus from matching, or complementary, DNA. Such a strategy worked in 1981 with poliovirus, but this was relatively easy because simply inserting polio cDNA into cells produced infectious virus. But negative-strand viruses are harder, because they are assembled with specific viral proteins that must also be produced in a cell. Segmented negative-strand viruses are hardest of all, because their RNA is assembled in several sections from different cDNA strands.
Elliott's team created circular DNA strands called plasmids containing the cDNA for bunyamwera virus. The plasmids also contained other key DNA pieces, including a stretch involved in copying other genes. They inserted the plasmids into cells infected with a virus that makes an enzyme for building RNA strands. The cocktail worked like a charm, as the cells churned out infectious bunyamwera particles. The group describes its work in tomorrow's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"It's really a good paper," says virologist Bernard Moss of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He notes that virologists can use this method to create segmented negative-strand viruses with altered genes, which could help probe the basic biology of these viruses. And, says Moss, bunyaviruses crippled in this fashion might someday be the basis for vaccines against hantavirus and other often-fatal hemorrhagic fevers.