Virus and Cells
Name: Nikki D.
Date: April 2004
Based on the structure of the plasma membrane and
transport mechanisms, how does an airborne virus enter the cell of the
Look up "endocytosis" in a good biology textbook. It's the process where bits of the cell
membrane are pinched off into the interior of the cell. It's a way that cells bring needed
things into the cell. Often, viruses hitch a ride on this process, binding to a part of
the membrane (or a protein in the membrane) that is going into the cell.
Paul Mahoney, PhD
On the surface of every cell are receptor type molecules-kind of like "docking stations".
They are proteins so they have a particular 3D shape. Some of these are attached to
membrane transport proteins-like gates in the membrane. If the virus can adapt to be
shaped like these, they can be taken inside the cell. Some drill their way through.
Many viruses have a outer coat that is made from the plasma membrane of the
cells in which they were made...handy for meeting up and joining with other
cell membranes...rather like two soap bubbles joining, one small and one
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Update: June 2012