Country: United States
Date: January 2008
I read that the protein shells in a virus takes the virus to
certain parts of the body. Is this true? If it is true,how does know
where to go and how does it get there?
Proteins are large biomolecules that have a specific three-dimensional
shape. After water, all living things are mostly protein. So if viruses
are coated with protein and they are trying to invade cells that are made
of protein, you have 2 proteins coming together on a surface. Since they
are both 3-D, one has to fit with the other.
So viruses have proteins on their surface that need to "dock" on the surface
of a host cell in order to be able to inject its genetic material. Most
viruses are adapted to locking onto receptor proteins on the host cell.
It's kind of like when the space shuttle has to dock with the international
space station. It has to be able to fit inside the "docking station".
Different kinds of cells have different proteins on their surfaces. So
viruses can only dock with the cells that it can fit with. Cold viruses
infect cells of the nose and throat because those cells have proteins on
their surface that they can lock onto.
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Update: June 2012