Scientists uncover the mysteries of how viruses evolve – EurekAlert

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IMAGE: In a directed evolution experiment, a protein shell naturally occurring in bacteria evolved into a protein container that can encapsulate RNA, mimicking a genome packaging mechanism the team previously discovered… view more 

Credit: ETH Zürich / Stephan Tette

The team say their findings have implications for the treatment of viruses in future.

Researchers from the Universities of York and Leeds, collaborating with the Hilvert Laboratory at the ETH Zürich, studied the structure, assembly and evolution of a ‘container’ composed of a bacterial enzyme.

The study – published in the journal Science – details the structural transformation of these virus-like particles into larger protein ‘containers’.

It also reveals that packaging of the genetic cargo in these containers becomes more efficient during the later stages of evolution. They show that this is because the genome inside evolves hallmarks of a mechanism widely used by natural viruses, including Covid-19, to regulate their assembly. That mechanism was a joint discovery of the York and Leeds team. Professor Reidun Twarock, from the University of York’s Departments of Mathematics and Biology, and the York Cross-disciplinary Centre for Systems Analysis, said: “Using a novel interdisciplinary technique developed in our Wellcome Trust funded team in Leeds and York, we were able to demonstrate that this
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