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With domestic knowledge of a destructive virus to many healthier potatoes



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Potatoes, along with corn, wheat and rice, are undoubtedly one of the most important crops in the world and an important factor in ensuring a nutritious and quality diet throughout the world.

Do not attack only potatoes

This extremely important plant greatly threatens -and also destroys- the potato Y virus (PVY, potato Y virus). The most common are potatoes, but also tobacco, peppers, tomatoes, dalli, petunia, apple troll and other plants. It is transmitted by spikes and is planted with infected potato tubers.




Head of research by Dr. Marjetka Podobnik.


Head of research by Dr. Marjetka Podobnik.
Photo: Ana Kovač

In the plant attacked by this virus serious signs of illness may appear, but a complete destruction of the crop may occur. Symptoms of the disease can occur on the leaves, but the most affected are the signs of disease in the tubers, which are not suitable for later use.




In the plant, attacked by the potato Y virus, signs of serious disease on the leaves may appear, and the producers are more affected by signs of disease in the tubers, which later are not suitable for later use.


In the plant, attacked by the potato Y virus, signs of serious disease on the leaves may appear, and the producers are more affected by signs of disease in the tubers, which later are not suitable for later use.
Photo: National Institute of Biology

The potato I virus killed the giant in Slovenia

The exact sensitivity to Y potato virus produced a variety of Igor potatoes approximately three decades ago, which were then grown in three quarters of all potato fields through Slovenia.

With the new structural and functional research of the coating protein of this virus, carried out largely by Slovenian scientists in Slovenia, we will approach more to prevent the damage caused by this virus.



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The first one recognized the structure of the potato Y virus in high resolution

For many years, scientists have tried to understand how the virus works – how to infect the plant and how it spreads through it, and how its interaction with the plant and the carriers – the ears of the leaves.




Symptoms of the potato after the infection with the potato Y virus


Symptoms of the potato after the infection with the potato Y virus
Photo: National Institute of Biology

Researchers at the Institute of Chemistry, along with researchers from the National Institute of Biology of Ljubljana and the Ceitec Institute of Brno, Czech Republic, used the use of cryoselectron microscopy to determine the first three-dimensional structure of the potato Y virus and the virus's high resolution of the similar particle.

What is crioelectron microscopy?

The most simple cryoelectron microscopy is electronic microscopy at very low temperatures, that is, approximately -195 ºC It allows the determination of the biomolecular structures in the solution in high resolution.

Developers of this technology, Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson, received jointly and likewise the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their contribution to this method in 2017, which opened new possibilities for determining the structures of large molecules and biological complexes, flexible molecules in the natural environment, cells or tissues at high resolutions.




Jacques Dubochet, from the University of Lausanne, with the same name in Switzerland, is one of the three scientists (the other two are Joachim Frank from Columbia University in New York and Richard Henderson from the Molecular Biology Laboratory of Cambridge, UK) , that in 2017 he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. for the development of cryoelectronic microscopy, which simplifies and improves the use of high resolution biomolecules.


Jacques Dubochet, from the University of Lausanne, with the same name in Switzerland, is one of the three scientists (the other two are Joachim Frank from Columbia University in New York and Richard Henderson from the Molecular Biology Laboratory of Cambridge, UK) , that in 2017 he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. for the development of cryoelectronic microscopy, which simplifies and improves the use of high resolution biomolecules.
Photo: Reuters

The flexibility of the virus is the basis of its destructive power

A virus-like particle differs from the virus in the absence of nucleic acids that are carriers of the hereditary registry, but it has, like the virus, a protein coating and both form very long and long threads.

The comparison of the structure of both suggests that the protein of the layer has the ability to adapt the form to various environmental factors, which allows the virus to interact with different components of the virus, viral vectors (pugons) and host (plant) during the life cycle.




The atomic model of the structure of the protein of the viral layer (above), which forms the viral particle (left) in the presence of viral RNA, in the absence of viral RNA, is found in the type particle virus (right).


The atomic model of the structure of the protein of the viral layer (above), which forms the viral particle (left) in the presence of viral RNA, in the absence of viral RNA, is found in the type particle virus (right).
Photo: Chemical institute

Publication in a reputable scientific journal

An article about this research, whose results can help to find preventative strategies to protect plants against infection with this virus, was adopted and published by the prestigious scientific journal Science Advances. The title of the article is Structural bases for the multitasking nature of the protein of the potato virus layer (Protein structure of the Y protein path is explained by its multi-layer effect, DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.aaw3808).




potato Y virus


Photo: Chemical institute

The editorial policy of this magazine only accepts the search for better quality in many fields of science and engineering, which is confirmed by the exceptional importance of this achievement and that has been proudly highlighted by the " Institute of Chemistry.

A good example of interdisciplinary cooperation

"The publication in the recognized international journal Science Advances raises the reputation of the Institute of Chemistry and in all countries, encourages the motivation of coworkers who participated in the study and open doors for development of their careers, "says the director of the Institute of Chemistry, prof. dr. Gregor Anderluh, who is himself one of the 15 participants in this research.

At the same time, Anderluh mentions this interdisciplinary research project, which lasted more than five years, as an excellent example of combining knowledge from different fields and transferring the scientific and engineering boundaries.

About the magazine Scientific advances

Magazine Scientific advances the American Association for the Advancement of ScienceAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS). Scientific advances It was created to expand the capacity of the prestigious magazine Science, in order to promote the most important and high quality results of all areas of science and engineering.

The extraordinary importance of this young magazine Scientific advances It is also reflected in the fast-growing impact factor, which is 12,804 for 2018 and could continue to grow in the future, mainly due to the great popularity of the authors.

The first cryoelectron microscope in the region ends up arriving at the Chemical Institute

Head of research by Dr. Marjetka Podobnik announced that in the future they will also focus on the possibility of using virus-like particles in various applications in the field of biotechnology and synthetic biology and the design of new advanced materials based on biological molecules.

"The applied knowledge of cryoselectron microscopy will be used in our other research projects and, above all, using our new microelectron microscope," he announced.

Currently, at the Institute of Chemistry, they are installing a new crioelectronic microscope worth millions of euros. This is the first microscope in our region that records biological samples in cryogenic conditions (low temperatures), which will be available to other Slovenian and international researchers.




New knowledge about the structure of the Y virus and the virus-like fragment open up many new opportunities and uses, especially in nanotechnology applications, such as delivery of molecules, preparation of vaccines, biosensors and nanoreactors and the design of new materials and nanoparticles.


New knowledge about the structure of the Y virus and the virus-like fragment open up many new opportunities and uses, especially in nanotechnology applications, such as delivery of molecules, preparation of vaccines, biosensors and nanoreactors and the design of new materials and nanoparticles.
Photo: Chemical institute

For a better understanding of plant diseases

The following research steps are foreseen in the Department of Biotechnology and Biology of the National Biological Institute of Ljubljana.

"At the National Institute of Biology, we are looking forward to better understand the structure and function of individual virus blocks in close collaboration with researchers from the Institute of Chemistry, which allow us to understand the development of disease in plants, "said the head of the department. Maja Ravnikar.




Steps to determine the three-dimensional structure of the Y virus of the potato and a fragment similar to the virus by means of a cryoelectron microscopy


Steps to determine the three-dimensional structure of the Y virus of the potato and a fragment similar to the virus by means of a cryoelectron microscopy
Photo: Martin Polak, Chemical Institute

Who participated in the survey

The research was carried out under the direction of Dr. Marjetka Podobnik of the Department of Molecular Biology and Nanobiotechnology of the Institute of Chemistry, where they did most of the work. Andrija Kežar, who is the first author of the article and most of the research, also belongs to the same department: Dr. Kavčič and Dr. Kavčič, Ph.D. Gregor Anderluh.

From the National Institute of Biology, Department of Biotechnology and Systems Biology, Dr. Ion Gutiérrez-Aguirre, dr. Magda Tušek Žnidarič, dr. Anna Coll, Katja Stare, dr. Kristina Gruden and Dr. Maja Ravnikar.

A researcher from the Ceitec Institute also participated in the study (European Institute of Technology) to Brno, Czech Republic, dr. Jiří Nováček i Ph.D. Martin Polák, since they used the cryoelectronic microscope at that time.

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