Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What do you have under your hood?

Posted by Marisa Dowling

UC San Diego scientists have explained how very large viruses can self-assemble at such a high rate. The secret? A tiny viral motor which procdues twice as much power, relative to its size, as car engine! This motor allows the virus (Bacteriophage T4 in this case) to package its long genome at incredible speed (around 5 minutes).

Using lasers, the researchers measured the forces generated by these molecular motors. The viral motor was found to be faster than any known cellular motor, including those in cells. It is also able to stop and speed up as appropriate, making it the first molecular motor to demonstrate this ability.

The scientists hope the discovery will aid in development of in vitro herpes virus and better antiviral drugs (knock out this motor to halt viral assembly).

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