- Not Exactly Rocket Science
Vaccinia virus tricks its way into hosts by mimicking dead cells
It’s a mimic and it disguises itself as cellular flotsam. Vaccinia carries a molecular tag on its surface called phosphatidylserine, which is usually found on the remains of cells that have died naturally. Its presence dupes other host cells into absorbing the virus as part of their general clean-up duties.
Jason Mercer and Ari Helenius from the EHT in Zurich discovered this piece of molecular trickery by tagging individual virus particles with a protein that glowed yellow, to track their movements as they stormed into a cell. Each invasion began as a virus latched onto thin protrusions called filopodia and used these as anchors to inch its way towards the main cell body (watch it happen on a Quicktime video).