Microorganisms produce 90% of the marine biomass and about half of the earth’s oxygen. Every day, viruses kill approximately 20% of the ocean’s biomass. This viral carnage not only controls the nutrient cycles of the oceans,but it also helps to sustain marine biodiversity. Despite their importance in marine microecology,the majority of marine viruses have not been studied. The project studies the the assembly of an important giant marine virus,Cafeteria roenbergensis virus(CroV). By killing a major predators of marine microorganisms,CroV has a significant impact on the oceans’ ecosystem and biodiversity and thus the overall health of the ocean. The studies of CroV will facilitate future investigations of other marine viruses that impact marine micro-ecology. With virion sizes and structural complexity approaching the level of small cells, giant viruses like CroV pose a challenge but also an opportunity to current structural biology. Understanding the self-assembly of CroV-sized supramolecules will facilitate the bioengineering of large delivery vesicles with wide applications.
Structural analysis of CroV and its structural proteins in Dr. Xiao’s research will address the following questions:
The student will engage in hands-on activities to obtain CroV, express CroV capsid proteins. The student will learn molecular biological skills such as protein electrophoresis, protein expression, protein chromatography as well as cell culture and virus purification. The student will obtain knowledge about state-of-the-art technology such as X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy.