Biologists at the University of California (UC) San Diego have documented for the first time how very large viruses reprogram the cellular machinery of bacteria during infection to more closely resemble an animal or human cell--a process that allows these alien invaders to trick cells into producing hundreds of new viruses, which eventually explode from and kill the cells they infect. In a paper published in the January 13, 2017 issue of Science, the researchers conducted a series of experiments that allowed them to view in detail what happens inside bacterial cells as the invading viruses replicate. The article is titled “Assembly of a Nucleus-Like Structure During Viral Replication in Bacteria.” "Scientists have been studying viruses for a hundred years, but we've never seen anything like this before," said Joe Pogliano, Ph.D., a Professor of Molecular Biology who headed the research team. "Every experiment produced something new and exciting about this system." Viruses that infect bacteria, also known as bacteriophages, are some of the most numerous entities on earth. "We chose to study a family of unusually large bacteriophage and to apply cutting-edge methods to watch their replication in unprecedented detail," said Dr. Kit Pogliano, also a Professor of Molecular Biology who participated in the study. Dr. Joe Pogliano and his colleagues found that shortly after bacteriophages infect bacteria, they destroy much of the existing architecture of the bacterial cells, including bacterial DNA, then hijack the remaining cellular machinery. The viruses then reorganize the entire cell into an efficient, centralized factory to produce the next generation of viruses.
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