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Human Anatomy

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Poliovirus was first isolated in 1909 by Karl Landsteiner and Erwin Popper. In 1981, the poliovirus genome was published by two different teams of researchers: by Vincent Racaniello and David Baltimore at MIT and by Naomi Kitamura and Eckard Wimmer at Stony Brook University.Poliovirus is one of the most well-characterized viruses, and has become a useful model system for understanding the biology of RNA viruses.

Poliovirus is composed of an RNA genome and a protein capsid. The genome is a single-stranded positive-sense RNA genome that is about 7500 nucleotides long. The viral particle is about 30 nanometres in diameter with icosahedral symmetry. Because of its short genome and its simple composition only RNA and a non-enveloped icosahedral protein coat that encapsulates it poliovirus is widely regarded as the simplest significant virus.



Individuals who are exposed to poliovirus, either through infection or by immunization with polio vaccine, develop immunity. In immune individuals, antibodies against poliovirus are present in the tonsils and gastrointestinal tract and are able to block poliovirus replication; IgG and IgM antibodies against poliovirus can prevent the spread of the virus to motor neurons of the central nervous system. Infection with one serotype of poliovirus does not provide immunity against the other serotypes, however second attacks within the same individual are extremely rare.

Poliovirus infects human cells by binding to an immunoglobulin-like receptor, CD155, on the cell surface. Interaction of poliovirus and CD155 facilitates an irreversible conformational change of the viral particle necessary for viral entry. The precise mechanism poliovirus uses to enter the host cell has not been firmly established. Attached to the host cell membrane, entry of the viral nucleic acid was thought to occur one of two ways: via the formation of a pore in the plasma membrane through which the RNA is then “injected” into the host cell cytoplasm, or that the virus is taken up by receptor-mediated endocytosis. Recent experimental evidence supports the latter hypothesis and suggests that poliovirus binds to CD155 and is taken up via endocytosis. Immediately after internalization of the particle, the viral RNA is released. However, any mechanism by which poliovirus enters the cell is very inefficient; as an infection is initiated only about 1% of the time.


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