Human adenoviruses (HAdV) are non-enveloped double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viruses associated with acute infections. Although these infections are generally self-limiting, the re-emergence of certain HAdV types has also been linked to potentially fatal respiratory infections in both civilian and military populations. In addition to their disease associations, replication-defective or conditionally replicating HAdVs continue to be evaluated in ~25% of approved phase I to III clinical trials for vaccine and therapeutic gene transfer. However, the lack of accurate details of the virus structure limits the reengineering of HAdV vectors and prevents a better understanding of the virus life cycle. High-resolution HAdV structure determination presents a challenge because of the large size (910 Å average diameter, 150 megadalton) and complexity (pseudo-T = 25) of the virus.
After more than a decade of research, scientists have pieced together the structure of a human adenovirus – the largest complex ever determined at atomic resolution. The new findings about the virus, which causes respiratory, eye, and gastrointestinal infections, may lead to more effective gene therapy and to new anti-viral drugs.
Crystal Structure of Human Adenovirus at 3.5 Å Resolution. (2010) Science 329(5995): 107 -1075 doi: 10.1126/science.1187292
Rational development of adenovirus vectors for therapeutic gene transfer is hampered by the lack of accurate structural information. Here, we report the x-ray structure at 3.5 angstrom resolution of the 150-megadalton adenovirus capsid containing nearly 1 million amino acids. We describe interactions between the major capsid protein (hexon) and several accessory molecules that stabilize the capsid. The virus structure also reveals an altered association between the penton base and the trimeric fiber protein, perhaps reflecting an early event in cell entry. The high-resolution structure provides a substantial advance toward understanding the assembly and cell entry mechanisms of a large double-stranded DNA virus and provides new opportunities for improving adenovirus-mediated gene transfer.