Cell Structure Lab



Cristina Risco Ortiz

Group Leader



Research summary

The Cell Structure Lab investigates the biogenesis of organelles and functional macromolecular complexes in cells. To identify new targets for antivirals, we study the viral factories of several RNA viruses that are important human pathogens.



Fernández de Castro I, Tenorio R, Ortega-González P, Knowlton JJ, Zamora PF, Dermody TS, Risco C. A modified lysosomal organelle mediates nonlytic egress of reovirus. J. Cell Biol. 2020; 219(7):e201910131

Sachse M, Fernandez de Castro I, Tenorio R, Risco C. The viral replication complexes within cells studied by electron microscopy. Adv Virus Res 2019; 105: 1-33.

Fernández-Oliva A, Ortega-González P, Risco C. Targeting host lipid flows: Exploring new antiviral and antibiotic strategies. Cell Microbiol. 2019, 21(3):e12996

Tenorio R, Fernández de Castro I, Knowlton JJ, Zamora PF, Lee CH, Mainou BA, Dermody TS, Risco C Reovirus σNS and μNS Proteins Remodel the Endoplasmic Reticulum to Build Replication Neo-Organelles. MBio 2018, 9(4). pii: e01253-18.

de Castro Martin IF, Fournier G, Sachse M, Pizarro-Cerda J, Risco C, Naffakh N. Influenza virus genome reaches the plasma membrane via a modified endoplasmic reticulum and Rab11-dependent vesicles. Nat Commun. 2017 Nov 9; 8(1):1396



Figure1Risco Antiviral drugs to treat many of the most troubling viruses have not been approved yet. One of the current strategies for antiviral drug development is the search for host cellular pathways used by many different viruses. Viruses alter lipid synthesis and flows to build replication neo-organelles or factories. Despite the importance of factories in viral infections, there are key gaps in knowledge about how they form and mediate their functions.

Our lab is pioneer in combining light and electron microscopy techniques to study viral infections. We have discovered that influenza virus builds a new organelle to transport its genome inside infected cells. This work received the European Microscopy Society 2017 Outstanding Paper Award in Life Sciences. With correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM) we demonstrated that the replication neo-organelles of the human reovirus, also known as viral inclusions (VI), form by major remodelling of the endoplasmic reticulum and that ER tubulation and vesiculation are mediated by the reovirus σNS and μNS proteins, respectively. We have recently discovered a new pathway for reovirus egress. Mature virions move from cytosolic factories to the interior of lysosomes that transport the virus progeny to the cell surface.

We are currently studying how RNA viruses hijack lipid transfer proteins (LTPs) and mitochondrial proteins to build replication factories. Furthermore, we are looking for inhibitors of these LTPs and mitochondrial proteins using state-of-the-art computational tools and databases of clinically approved drugs. Our goal is to identify new targets for antiviral drug development and to validate broad-spectrum antivirals to treat many pathogenic viruses.





Cristina Risco Ortiz Principal investigator
Martin Christop Sachse Visiting scientist
Isabel Fernández de Castro Martín Postdoctoral scientist
Raquel Tenorio Vela Postdoctoral scientist
Moisés García Serradilla Predoctoral scientists
Alberto Fernández Oliva Predoctoral scientists
Paula Ortega González Predoctoral scientist
Sara Yolanda Fernández Sánchez Technician


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