The history of viruses dates back to 1670 when the

colour breaking of tulips was published in “Trait des
tulips”, wherein it was mentioned that the color
variegation might be due to a disease. The first scientific
proof of the mosaic disease of tobacco came in 1892,
when Dimitry Iwanowisky proved that the infected sap
was capable of inducing the mosaic disease in healthy
plants, even after passing through bacterial- proof filter
candles. M W Beinerink1898 gave the name to this
infectious agent ‘contagium vivum fluidum’, and latter on
as filterable viruses. Meanwhile Bour and Beijerink coined
the term virus for this infectious agent.

The structural virology started only after the work of
Stanely who in 1935 isolated the tobacco mosaic virus in
crystalline form for which he was awarded the noble
prize. With the advancement of optical instrumentation,
structural and molecular virology gained momentum.

Characters of viruses

Lwoff and Tournier in 1966 described the following
characters of viruses:
Viruses posses only one type of nucleic acids either DNA
or RNA and never both;

virions reproduce from their sole nucleic acid;
virions are unable to grow or undergo binary fission;
they lack the genetic information for the synthesis of
Lipmann system; and
viruses make use of their host machinery (absolute
However, F C Bawden reduced the long list of characters,
defined viruses as “submicroscopic infective entities that
multiply only intracellularly and are potentially
pathogenic.” Hahon in 1964 called these definitions as
orthodox and treated viruses as transmitters or vehicles
of information bearing genetic material and defined
viruses as “bits of infectious heredity in search of
chromosomes.” This definition seems to be relevant when
the second school of thought, i.e. “retrogressive
evolution of viruses” is taken into account.

General structure of viruses

Generally a virus consists of a strand of nucleic acid
surrounded by a protein coat; hence viruses are
nucleoproteinacious. The whole virus particle is called
virion. The protein coat is known as capsid, and the

each unit is called a capsomere. along with the nucleic acid.The protomers are connected to one another with the help of bonds. CAPSID Capsid is a protein covering which encloses the nucleic acid. The capsomeres are made up of monomers called protomers. is called nucleocapsid.individual protein subunits are called capsomeres. The nucleic acid together with protein coat is called nucleocapsid. These components are: Capsid Genome Envelope and enzymes 1. The proteins in the capsid are arranged in smaller identical sub units. There may be similar or several types of protomers in the capsid. Protomers as well as capsomeres once exposed to . Therefore. The arrangement of capsomeres is characteristic for a particular virus. hence capsid. viruses have three important components which give them the structural organization and help in its replication in an appropriate host cell.

and some viruses represent the both. For example in tobacco mosaic virus protomers aggregate to form a two layered disc. It may be helical or polyhedral. It helps the virus in its attachment to a host cell with specific receptors. The capsid performs the following functions in a virus particle: 1. . RNA forms a loop and inserts itself inside the hole of the disc. This process is called self. It is followed by the association of code proteins with RNA at a special site near 3end of the genome. 2. ultra-violet radiations or due to the activity of host enzymes. It protects the nucleic acid from any kind of damage as a result of mechanical force.assembly. associate spontaneously to form the capsid without any external help. The arrangement of capsomeres in association with the nucleic acid gives a definite symmetry to the virus particle.proper conditions. The association of the protomers continues till the whole of the RNA gets inserted in the capsid.

It can be linear. stranded (ds RNA).However.stranded. The following generalizations may be made about the viral genome: • Plant viruses usually contain RNA.however. attention has been paid to explore the genomic composition of viruses. It enables the virus particle to penetrate the cell membrane of the host to inject the nucleic acid in the host cytoplasm. circular or segmented. but never both. The virus genome varies in size from 3500 nucleotides to about 230 kbp (kilo base pairs). It may be single- stranded (ss RNA) or double. It may be single.stranded or double. some plant viruses contain DNA. With the advancement in the molecular biology techniques. viruses show a great variation in their genome.3. 2. Primarily viruses posses either DNA or RNA as their genetic material. GENOME Unlike other organisms. some animal viruses posses . (Table 02) • Animal viruses generally contain double stranded- DNA (ds DNA).

single. Plant viruses .stranded RNA (ss RNA) and a few have double. Animal viruses Table 02. (02) Table 01.stranded RNA (ds RNA) (Tabl 01) • Bacterial virsuses (Bacteriophages) contain DNA (single stranded /double stranded) or RNA (single stranded /double stranded) (Table 03) (01) Adopted from Presscort.

negative (-) sense incapable of gene expression or ambisense.e. . with the same polarity as that of mRNA.stranded RNA Single stranded RNA (ss RNA) virus genome A single stranded RNA genome may be of plus (+) sense i. (03) Table 03 Bacterial viruses 2.1 RNA virus genome As mentioned earlier that RNA genome is of two types: Single. i. a mixture of both (+) and (-) sense.e.stranded RNA and Double.

 Positive (+) sense single stranded RNA The RNA of such viruses after uncoating in the cytoplasm acts as mRNA and directs the synthesis of virus proteins responsible for genome replication. The modification helps the viral RNA in its recognition by the host cell. Virus groups with such genomes share some common features. Astroviruses and Picorna viruses. .tobamoviruses and bromoviruses. П. 5 end by a methylated nucleotide cap and 3 end by polyadenylation. Virus genome at its 5’ and 3’ ends posses an untranslated region which do not code for any protein. Ш. for example: І. The examples of ss + sense RNA viruses are Calciviruses. Both the ends are modified. Purified (+) sense RNA can induce infection directly without any virus protein.

 Ambisense genome organisation Some viruses are partly + sense and partly – sense.  Negative (-) strand RNA Viruses After uncoating of virus particle in the cytoplasm. Paramyxoviruses and orthomyxoviruses have (-) sense RNA.stranded RNA virus genome . the (-) RNA strand remains associated with the transcriptase enzyme to synthesize an mRNA which codes for structural proteins and enzymes that direct the synthesis of + RNA. Rabies virus.g. Arena viruses and some Buniya viruses. and potato yellow dwarf viruses are the common examples. From + RNA more – RNA strands are synthesised which act as genome for progeny viruses. Rhabdoviruses. e. tomato spotted wilt virus. o Double.

while as in case of plants Partiviridae and Reoviridae posses ds RNA.stranded DNA virus. The genome of this virus is circular with a single.DNA genome of smaller size is that of phage lambda with 49 kbp and T4 Phage with a genome size of 160 kbp.2 DNA virus genomes On the basis of the genome size the DNA genome of viruses can be divided into two groups: (a)Smaller DNA genome. Wound Tumor and Rice Dwarf viruses are the common examples. Parvo virus and Polyoma viruses have smaller DNA genome. o Smaller DNA genome The best studied example of the smaller DNA genome is that of bacteriophage M3. and (b) Larger DNA genome. . The DNA is of linear shape. The double stranded. However parvo virus is the only single. 2.In case of animals only Reoviruses posses ds RNA.stranded DNA and has about 7200 nucleotides. In case of animal viruses.

 Segmented and multipartite genome When the genome is divided in to two or more nucleic acid molecules and is packed in to a single virus particle. Orthomyxoviruses. The genome of these viruses resembles that of the host cellular genome in many respects. the genome is said to be segmented. such as presence of histone proteins. polyadenylation. stranded and considerably large. reoviruses and buniya viruses are the examples of segmented virus genomes. while as that of Adenovirus is 30-38 kbp in a linear form. and in presence of split genes through coding and non coding segments. o Larger DNA genome There is a large number of viruses whose genome is double. . Herpes virus and Adenoviuses are the examples of viruses with large DNA genomes. Herpes virus has a genome size of about 230 kbp with linear double stranded DNA.

Envelope and enzymes Many viruses. there are carbohydrates. In case the genome is segmented but packed into separate virus particles. Because of flexible . The lipid and carbohydrates are derived from the membranes of the host cell. In these viruses genome is packed into many capsids. The virus envelope consists of a lipid bilayer with glycoproteins embedded in it. 3. geminiviruses. Such viruses can have two or three capsids and are accordingly called bipartite and tripartite viruses. These structures help the virus in the attachment with the host cell surface. e. Besides they are used as a taxonomic tool in virus classification. it is said to be multipartite. which is called envelope or peplos.g. whereas the glycoproteins are of viral origin. Influenza virus has 8 RNA molecules with 890-2341 nucleotides. animals and bacteria have complex membranous structures around the nucleocapsid. Multipartite genome is only found in plant viruses. Besides. Envelope sometimes give rise projections which are called spikes or peplomers. those of plants.

Based on the presence and absence of envelope.ds DNA Iridovirus---ds DNA Table (A): Enveloped and non.ds DNA Poxvirus--. DNA hepadnavirus --. in some viruses the envelope is firmly attached to the capsid and the viruses have a constant shape.enveloped DNA viruses RNA: animal viruses Non. enveloped viruses have a variable shape and are called pleomorphic.enveloped viruses. the viruses are grouped as enveloped and non.ds DNA Adenovirus ---ds DNA Herpes virus --. RNA Reovirus – ds RNA Togavirus---ss RNA Orthomyxovirus ---ss RNA Bunyavirus ---ss RNA .nature of envelope. partially ds DNA Papovirus --. (Tables A & B) DNA animal viruses Non enveloped viruses Enveloped viruses Parvovirus --.enveloped viruses Enveloped viruses Picornavirus – ss RNA Rhabdovirus – ss.

There are two types of spikes present in influenza virus. spikes. Besides neuraminidase helps in assembly process and budding out of virus from the host.g. N.01 A. heamagglutinating and / or antigenic activity. B). Other spikes with hem-agglutinin proteins bind the viruses to red blood cell membranes and cause hem- agglutination. Spikes emerge out 10 nm from the surface at about 7-8 nm intervals. . spikes posses an enzyme called neuraminidase (hence the name N. These spikes have enzymatic. absorptive. which helps the virus in penetrating the mucous layers of the respiratory epithelium to reach the host cells. Coronavirus ---ss RNA Arenavirus ---ss RNA Retrovirus---ss RNA Paramyxovirus ---ss RNA Table (B): Enveloped and non. but still some viruses do have enzymes in their capsid or envelo. spike).spikes and N. e.enveloped RNA viruses Influenza virus is a well.studied example of an enveloped virus. (Fig. These are called H. Usually viruses lack enzymes.

e. Some enzymes are involved in nucleic acid replication.01.dependent RNA polymerase in Influenza virus. and RNA. 2006)  Symmetry of Viruses Symmetry refers to any structure. (a): An electron-micrograph of influenza virus (b): Diagram of Influenza virus (Adopted from Presscort.The morphology of virus is determined by the . RNA. (a) (b) Fig.dependent DNA polymerase in HIV.Neuraminidase in Influenza virus.g. which when rotated around an axis so that the same form is seen from all sides.

i. spherical or icosahedral and helical or rod shaped.e. viruses have two kinds of symmetries.g. e. o Icosahedral or polyhedral symmetry When protomers aggregate into units of five or six capsomeres. they condense to form an icosahedrons. Primarily. Viruses with such a type of symmetry are called icosahedral or polyhedral. polyoma virus has 72. The number of capsomeres in an icosahedron varies from virus to virus.arrangement of protomers (protein morphological units). icosahedral. helical and complex. . turnip yellow mosaic and polio viruses have 32 each. with 20 faces of equilateral triangles and 20 apices. However. Pentamers or pentons are at the vertices of the icosahedrons and hexamers or hexons form edges and triangular faces. some viruses have binal symmetry. viz. Therefore. they are partly helical and partly icosahedral. ф X 174 has 12 capsomers. viruses occur in three main shapes viz.

whose detailed structure is discussed here. composed of three identical polypeptides. The major coat proteins are called hexons and constitute the major proteins of the faces of the icosahedrons. The hexons are actually trimers. A common example of an icosahedron is the Adeno virus. (Fig. The virus has a diameter of 75 nm and its coat consists of 11 to 15 distinct proteins.herpes virus has 162.2 A.containing viruses. At the five vertices of the icosahedrons are 12 pentons. Some adenoviruses cause tumors in animals. . which cause mild respiratory infections in humans. and adeno viruses have 252 capsomeres. Some characteristic fibers are attached to the pentons. which help the virus particle in its attachment with the host cell. The Adenoviruses are DNA. The moleculer weight of the DNA is 20 × 10⁶ Daltons.B).

B). (A) (B) Fig.T. . the virus symmetry is said to be helical. Madigan) o Helical Symmetry When the protomers are arranged in such a way that they form a long rigid hollow tube. 03 A.02 (A) A model of an icosa hedral capsid (Adeno Virus) (B) An electron micrograph of Adeno virus. (Adopted from M. Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) is the best studied example of helical capsid (fig.

There are 130 turns along the helix. with a molecular weight of 17000 daltons. with a central hole of 40 A°. The helix has 16⅓ subunits per turn. There are 6400 nucleotides with a molecular weight of 2× 10⁶ Daltons. . The nucleic acid in TMV is a single stranded RNA molecule coiled into a helix and has a diameter of 80 A°. Each subunit has 158 amino acids.TMV is an RNA virus about 150 A° thick and 3000 A° long. The length of the helical viruses is determined by the length of the nucleic acid. RNA helix has 49 nucleotides with a pitch of 23 A°. The capsid is composed of 2130 identical protein subunits.

Helical array of protomers with RNA coiling . .M.V.(A) (B) Fig03:A.A model of T.

It has a diameter of 96 X 65 nm. It has a central hollow tube. The structure of bacteriophage T4 will be discussed here in detail.T. The sheath is made up of 144 protein subunits arranged in 24 rings and each ring made of six protein subunits. The base plate is hexagonal and .M. therefore. The bacteriophage is tadpole like. The head is an icosahedron elongated by one or two rows of hexamers in the middle. The tail has helical symmetry. but rather show a combination of both and.An electron micrograph of T. . a sheath surrounding the tube and a complex base plate. Pox viruses and bacteriophages are the common examples of complex viruses. Finch) Adopted from Presscort o Complex Symmetry Some viruses do not fit in to the helical or icosahedral symmetries. have a binal symmetry. and is made up of 2000 similar protein subunits.V at high resolution power (courtesy J. B. and contains a circular double-stranded DNA about 53µm long. It is attached with the head by means of a collar or neck piece. with a polyhedral head and a cylindrical tail.

The length of the tail fiber is 130 A°. Source: Presscort .—Diagramatic representation of T-even bacteriophage. B) (A) (B) Fig04:A. The tail fibers are the organs of attachment to the specific sites of the host cell (Fig 04 A.has a pin and a jointed tail fiber at each corner.

even Bacteriophage.An Electron micrograph of T. --. B. Source: Madigan .