MS2, an ssRNA virus, has a long (> 50 years) history as a model system in molecular biology. MS2 infects the Gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli via a single maturation protein, which attaches to retractile F-pili of the host and has potential biotechnological applications for RNA delivery into cells. While MS2 was the first organism sequenced, our understanding for the attachment stage of infection is about where it was in the 1970’s, the heyday of ssRNA phage research. A recent paper published by Dr. Junjie Zhang’s group on Nature Communications reports seven structures of the MS2 virion free of or bound to the host receptor, the F-pili, using both single-particle cryo-electron microscopy and in-situ cryo-electron tomography. The structures of the MS2/F-pilus complex, for the first time, revealed the mechanism for the host recognition of MS2 and can aid the further engineering of these viruses for RNA delivery.
If you would like to read more on their paper, “Structural basis for the adsorption of a single-stranded RNA bacteriophage,” please click on the following link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-11126-8