Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Health

Blasting Off on Plumes of Actin

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

How do viruses travel through and escape from cells they’ve infected? Some viruses, it turns out, use the cell’s own skeleton to propel themselves. Protein chemist Michael Way, cell biologist Sally Cudmore, and their colleagues at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg and at the Pasteur Institute in Paris have found that vaccinia--a virus used in smallpox vaccines--surfs through cells on piles of actin, one of the basic structural proteins in the cellular skeleton. The virus somehow gets actin in the cell to assemble behind it. It’s a bit like someone standing on a stack of something, and they want to get higher, so they insert a new block underneath them, and up they go, says Way. This image shows vaccinia viruses (the green dots) erupting from the surface of a human cell on long red actin plumes. The plumes can even penetrate a neighboring cell, thereby giving the virus a free ride into uninfected territory. It’s actually a big advantage to go from the inside of one cell directly to the inside of another cell, says Way, because the host never sees you. You never raise antibodies, and you don’t get an immune response.

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In