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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Davis, California » Sustainable Agricultural Water Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #378823

Research Project: A Systems Approach to Improved Water Management for Sustainable Production

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Water Systems Research

Title: Why are viruses spiked?

item SHEN, CHONGYANG - China Agricultural University
item Bradford, Scott

Submitted to: mSphere
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/3/2021
Publication Date: 2/17/2021
Citation: Shen, C., Bradford, S.A. 2021. Why are viruses spiked? mSphere. 6(1). Article e01339-20.

Interpretive Summary: This perspective paper explains why spikes on the surface of a virus can lead to high infectivity and mobility in the environment. In particular, we show that spikes on a virus greatly reduce the energy of interaction so that it can easily approach and leave a surface. This information improves our understanding of virus interactions with surfaces and has important implications for designing virus-like particles for specific industrial and environmental applications. These results should be of interest to scientists, engineers, regulators, and public health officials concerned with the fate of viruses in the environment.

Technical Abstract: Many viruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), have a structure consisting of spikes protruding from an underlying spherical surface. Research in biological and colloidal sciences has revealed secrets of why spikes exist on virus surfaces. Specifically, the spikes favor virus attachment on surfaces via receptor-specific interactions (RSIs), mediate the membrane fusion, and determine or change viral tropism. The spikes also facilitate viruses to approach surfaces before attachment and subsequently escape back to the environment if RSIs do not occur (i.e., easy come and easy go). Therefore, virus spikes create the paradox of having a large capacity for binding with cells (high infectivity) and meanwhile great mobility in the environment. Such structure-function relationships have important implications for the fabrication of virus-like particles and analogous colloids (e.g., hedgehog- and raspberry-like particles) for applications such as the development of antiviral vaccines and drug delivery.