FMDV: fibrils may play a key role in viral replication

Researchers have used cryo-electron microscopy to observe tiny structures created by foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV). Biologists from the University of Leeds in collaboration with colleagues at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, observed the interaction between components of the virus in test tube experiments under bio-secure conditions.

High-resolution images revealed the formation of tube-like structures called fibrils which emerged when the components were mixed in vitro and began to replicate. When the proteins were manipulated to prevent the virus genome from replicating, the fibrils did not form. The findings are reported in Communications Biology.

The scientists behind the discovery concluded that these fibrils could play a key role in the virus’s ability to replicate, a highly complex process that is not fully understood.

Senior author Dr Eleni-Anna Loundras, currently a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Pirbright Institute, carried out the research as part of her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology in the University of Leeds Faculty of Biological Sciences.

She said: “These significant findings shed light on the key molecular interactions and dynamics involved within these complicated viral replication complexes, which we still have much to learn about.”

“Our research indicates that these fibrils have a function in viral replication in lab experiments, but we don’t yet know how important they are in a living cell. Further research into the function of these structures will be possible in years to come, as imaging technology improves.”

Article: Loundras, E. A., Streetley, J., Herod, M. R., Thompson, R., Harris, M., Bhella, D., Stonehouse, N. J. (2022). Higher-order structures of the foot-and-mouth disease virus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase required for genome replication. Communications Biology, 5(1), 61, doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-02989-z

[SOURCE: University of Leeds]