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Danish researches solve virus puzzle

udoknot it needs to unravel the pseudoknot before it can proceed. Question is, how does it do that? Lene Oddershede at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen has developed optical tweezers which can investigate and manipulate molecules at the nano-meter scale. Using a tightly focussed laserbeam this instrument can grab the ends of the RNA tether and follow the process of how the pseudoknot is mechanically unfolded.

A crucial slip of the cellular motor

In their investigations the researchers use a pseudoknot which is related to bird flu. When the ribosome encounters a pseudoknot it has to unravel the knot before the reading can proceed. During this process the ribosome sometimes slips backwards and, like the letters making up a word, it now reads a new RNA sequence and hence uses another recipe to construct the protein. The researchers have found that the stronger the pseudoknot the more often this backwards slipping happens. The different protein formed is the protein needed by the virus, with possible serious consequences for the hosting organism. This is the manner in which many vira, e.g. HIV, trick the cell into producing something which it never would have done otherwise. Understanding the role of the pseudoknots can be an important step in developing a viral vaccine.
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Source:University of Copenhagen


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