Positive-stranded RNA (+RNA) viruses constitute the largest virus group, comprising well known human pathogens like MERS- and SARS-coronavirus, poliovirus, Zika virus, or hepatitis C virus. During infection, +RNA viruses take control of specific intracellular membranes and remodel them into specialized structures that support the process of RNA-dependent RNA synthesis required to replicate the viral genome. These membrane structures can thus be viewed as viral replication organelles; they are the working environment of the viral replication machinery and therefore also the cradle for +RNA virus evolution. Understanding their structure at a molecular level and the host-virus interplay involved in their biogenesis and function can pave the way to the development of novel anti-viral strategies against these rapidly evolving viruses.
We focus on the replication of nidoviruses (coronaviruses and arteriviruses) and picornaviruses. Our experimental approach combines classical electron microscopy techniques with advanced methods like (cryo)electron tomography, 3D-SEM, and correlative light and electron microscopy. These studies are complemented with molecular biology approaches through long-standing collaborations with the group of Prof. Eric Snijder at Medical Microbiology (LUMC) and the group of Prof. Frank van Kuppeveld at the Utrecht University.
Principal investigator: Montse Bárcena