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Starting from the very Latin word “virulent”, a virus has been known as a cause of infectious diseases since 1400s. However, the actual discovery of these agents belongs to Dmitry Ivanovsky since 1892. From the perspective of virology, viruses are genetic infectious elements, obligate intracellular parasites, which cannot sustain their own life unless replicating in a suitable living cell, called the host cell. They are smaller than prokaryotic cells, smallpox and mimivirus being of the largest viruses. In order to understand how these viruses behave and the way they gain entry to their hosts, we must first analyze the hypotheses concerning their evolution. Therefore, a very interesting approach to start with would be the very origin of these microorganisms. Being thought to have emerged with the evolution of the first cells, being the most numerous biological elements and not being able to form fossils makes it very hard to accurately determine the origin of viruses. However, there are three main hypotheses that try to analyze it. The first of these, the Regressive hypothesis, the degeneracy or reduction hypothesis states that viruses
have once parasited larger cells, but in time, the genes that allowed them to survive outside a living cell was lost, therefore causing them to become obligate prasites ( rickettsia and chlamydia, for example, are not viruses but support this theory in that they can replicate only in another cell). The cellular origin, vagrancy or escape hypothesis debates the possibility of viruses having evolved from DNA or RNA fragments, such as plasmids and transposons. However, a more different perspective comes with the coevolution or first-virus hypothesis, which records the origin of viruses from more complex arrangements of proteins, having evolved independently, but parallel with other different primary cells. It also underlines the dependence on these first cells for a long time now. (for example, Hepatitis delta virus can only replicate using Hepatitis B). As we can observe, wether it has evolved on its own or as escaped parts of other genetical materials, viruses are, without doubt, dependent on the living host cell. Despite this aspect, they
do contain their own genetic information, therefore being independent of the host’s genome. It is well-known that any cell contains double-stranded DNA molecules. In contrast to their structure, viruses are much more diverse, being classified according to the nucleic acid they contain. They may have single or double stranded nucleic acid, be it DNA (Herpes virus) or RNA (or sometimes a combination of both) and their viral genomes may also be either linear (most of them) or circular. More than that, they differ from plasmids by having not only an intracellular form, but also an extracellular one, called the virion, that enables them to exist outside the host for long periods of time and transmission to a new host is also facilitated. They also differ from the structure of a cell itself by being metabolic inert and not being able of carrying out respiration or biosynthesis. However, similarities with these plasmids and other genetic elements imply the ability to confer important new properties on their host cell, properties which may be harmful or, in some cases, even beneficial.
can only occur after a breach in the host cell wall. being the most numerous organisms on the planet. viral entry. specifically called the enveloped viruses. there are six major steps of which the replication cycle consists : 1. however. For example. there is a main category of viruses. Electron micrograph of icosahedraladenovirus When talking about viral replication . there are two other types. The latter one comes in diverse shapes. despite the fact that viruses are metabolically inert outside of a cell. nucleic acid polymerases and other enzymes needed for leaving the host. which is also formed of capsomers. with special viral membrane proteins critical for attachment to or release from the host cell. composed of lipid bilayers with many glycoproteins imbedded in it.By talking about structure and symmetry we come across various types of viruses. there may be an envelope protecting the nucleocapsid. the attachment (or the adsorbtion stage) of the virion to a compatible host cell is an actual binding of the capsid proteins to special receptors on the surface of the target organism. helical (rodshaped viruses) and icosahedral (spherical viruses). However. viruses cannot exist outside a host cell. The situation of infecting bacteria is similar. sizes and chemical compositions. they do contain specific enzymes with important roles. called the capsid.due to the fact they are acellular. This process undergoes by means of endocytosis or membrane fusion and in most of the cases it requires proteins to move around. There are. such as the lysozyme (used to break the bacterial cell wall). there are certain differences between penetration into plants. as well. complex viruses. being characterised by having several parts of different shapes and symmetries. Based on symmetry. First of all. some viruses have developed a different process through . followed by a fusion between the viral and host membranes. However. there is a certain diversity between species in terms of replication. More than that. which they use to multiply themselves. Therefore. in these cases. The consequences of the linking to the specific receptor may be in the form of changes in the envelope proteins of the virus. but given the fact the bacterial cell wall is however thinner than that of plants. In addition to this. The major ones are mostly based on the aspect that plants present a very rigid cellulose cell wall and fungi have a similar structure made of chitin. but regardless of the family they belong to. Its nucleic acid is surrounded by a protein shell. the HIV virus can only infect a few leucocytes in humans. Penetration or the entry stage is the next one and it implies the injection of the virion or its nucleic acid into the host cell. animals and bacteria. which are mainly categorised by having an envelope or not and by the nature of the virion itself. The complex formed of nucleic acid and the capsid is called the nucleocapsid. This specificity determines the types of hosts in which each virus can assemble within a certain range. 2. According to the presence or absence of the envelope.
However. but keep their capsid outside. there may be some changes in the protein structure. 6. after the genome has been replicated parallel with the host division. During this stage. or in the case of infecting bacteria. Next is probably the most important stage. Uncoating follows in the sense that the virus’s capsid is removed and the genomic nucleic acid is released into the host. and the later ones usually consist in the production of virion proteins. but only in specific places. a prophage.they inject their genomes across the membranes. The release is the final stage and this occurs by means of denaturating the membrane and the cell wall of the host. as mentioned above. 4. After a while. 5. there being so many types of viruses. there are certain differences between them. the replication itself. in the case of more complex organisms these cycles of mRNAs synthesis may be more than one or two. the genome being firstly genetically recombined with the host’s chromosome. the foreign nucleic acid of the virus activate it in order to break the cell and release the virion. This newly formed is called a provirus. and then release it. This lysis sometimes undergoes as a cycle. This occurs as specific proteins bend the membrane in order to form a new one for the virion. One case is that of the enveloped viruses. The multiplication of the genome starts with the production of viral mRNAs. the synthesis of virus nucleic acid and proteins through metabolism controlled by the virus. which are released through budding. it continues with the assembly of the viral proteins then the very replication of the genome redirected by the expression of these proteins. However. 3. these changes occur only after the new virion has been detached from the host. for they continue to repeat. In some types of viruses. membrane components are also structured) and packaging of the viral nucleic acid into new virions. . The next step is called the assembly of capsids (and for the enveloped viruses.
the polarity determines two types of nucleic acid multiplication and it also depends wether the viral genome . For the first category replication takes place in the nucleus. when talking about the viral nucleic acid. RNA viruses and Retroviruses. there are more aspects to be taken into consideration. while for the viruses based on RNA genomes replication happens in the cytoplasm. being directly dependent on the synthesis of DNA and RNA molecules. which presents variances at different stages for different types of viruses. In this sense.A typical virus replication cycle Apart from this cycle. replication occurs differently for DNA. For these.
copying the genetic material. As opposed to Bacteriophage T4.Coli has a more complex process. The Baltimore Classification of viruses is based on the method of viral mRNAsynthesis. It can also establish lysogeny. multiplying their genome in synchrony with the host chromosomes. there are also some viruses which can attain a special relationship with the target cell. the DNA is attached to the host’s genetic material. The first ones use a DNA intermediate to replicate.is single-stranded or double-stranded. we actually mean bacteriophages. which is different by the fact that most viral genes are not expressed along this process. They are called temperate viruses and the way they enter the cell is called lysogeny. When talking about bacterial viruses. Regardless the group they belong to. plants and animals. The specificity of the viral material has determined three major classes : prokaryotes (mostly bacteria). They are often virulent (such as bacteriophage T4) and kill their host.RNA replicase which has the most important role in the replicative machinery. However. in the form of a provirus. which infects E. Knowing the fact that viruses are obligate parasites. as they are in the case of breaking the cell by the other common phages. we must also consider the types of host’s they can bind to. while the second ones depend on an RNA intermediate. They both use a RNAdependent DNA Polymerase. also called pararetroviruses. Bacteriophage Lamba. but only when late . also called retroviruses and about double-stranded DNA viruses. but pararetroviruses do not undergo this process. which carries out the genetic conversion. all RNA viruses use a specifc enzyme . Another major difference is that in the case of retroviruses. which undergoes the normal replication cycle. For reverse transcribing viruses we can talk about single-stranded RNA viruses .
org/wiki/Virus.proteins are prevented from being produced and a copy of the viral genome is into the host chromosome. http://en. They are small.23 February 2011. Dunlap. However. Bibliography Brock Biology of Microorganisms [Book] / auth. They can help for a better understanding of the genetics and biochemistry of cellular processes and tell us (2011)and genetics of microbes.wikipedia. the normal process results in the destruction of the host cell. . Madigan. enveloped viruses can also create giant cells with more nuclei by connecting multiple animal cells. remaining alive and continuing on producing virions. citrus exocortis viroid and potato spindle tuber viroid. which differ from the normal virus in lacking the protein coat. . as well. Transmission electron micrograph of multiple bacteriophages attached to a bacterial cell wall In the case of animal viruses. More than that. viruses have become a major study for the modern science. Martinko. Plants are mostly infected by viroids. and the cell has a chance of not being lysed.[s. even though the cells live for a short period. Virus [Online] // Wikipedia. through budding.] : Pearson. . Outnumbering many other microorganisms by far and with such a complexity. infecting various types of cellular hosts. These type of infections are called persistent for the obvious reason. 2009.l. which are another type of viroids are known to cause diseases in animals. . Other animal viruses can also convert their normal host cells into tumor ones by means of transformation. This prevents exposure to the immune system. prions. which normally occur in an on-going process. circular and single-stranded RNA molecules. John M. Paul V. for enveloped viruses the replication occurs more slowly. Michael T. David P. being unable to infect prokaryotes or animals. However. There are also latent infections (for example fever blisters caused by the herpes simplex virus).February 2011. Clark. by which we understand a delay between the infection and the lytic events. Most common examples include coconut cadang-cadang viroid.
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