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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The detection and characterization of multiple hemagglutinin-esterase (HE)-defective viruses in the mouse brain during subacute demyelination induced by mouse hepatitis virus.

It has previously been shown that passive immunization with antibodies specific for the hemagglutinin-esterase (HE) protein of mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) prevents acute lethal encephalitis, resulting in a subacute and chronic demyelination in mice infected with JHM(2), an isolate of the neurotropic JHM strain of MHV. To determine possible genetic changes occurring during infection, viruses were isolated from the brain of infected mice at various time points after infection and examined for the patterns of their structural proteins. The results showed that the sizes and expression levels of the viral spike, membrane, and nucleocapsid proteins were constant among 161 virus isolates throughout the infection. In contrast, most of the viruses isolated later in infection did not synthesize HE protein. This finding suggests that the HE gene expression is extremely variable and is preferentially lost during prolonged viral infections. In contrast, when viruses were passaged in tissue culture, no significant accumulation of HE protein-defective mutants was observed, suggesting that the accumulation of HE protein-defective mutants in infected animals was most likely the result of the positive selection for these mutants during the subacute and chronic infection. The genetic defects of HE gene in these mutants were characterized by cloning, sequencing, and in vitro translation of HE genes. Most of the mutations in the HE protein-defective mutants consisted of deletions of various lengths at different sites within the HE-coding region, resulting in the change of the reading frame and early termination. However, most of the truncated HE proteins were not detected in the infected cells. Since viruses from different mice exhibited different types of defects, the HE mutations probably occurred de novo in the brain. These results demonstrated the exceptionally rapid selection of HE-defective mutants during viral infection of mice and suggest that their selection may be related to the neuropathogenicity or persistence of MHV.[1]


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