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Mol Cell. 2000 Feb;5(2):255-66.

Cryo-electron microscopy reveals the functional organization of an enveloped virus, Semliki Forest virus.

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The Structural Biology Programme, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany.


Semliki Forest virus serves as a paradigm for membrane fusion and assembly. Our icosahedral reconstruction combined 5276 particle images from 48 cryo-electron micrographs and determined the virion structure to 9 A resolution. The improved resolution of this map reveals an N-terminal arm linking capsid subunits and defines the spike-capsid interaction sites. It illustrates the paired helical nature of the transmembrane segments and the elongated structures connecting them to the spike projecting domains. A 10 A diameter density in the fusion protein lines the cavity at the center of the spike. These clearly visible features combine with the variation in order between the layers to provide a framework for understanding the structural changes during the life cycle of an enveloped virus.

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