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. In particular we study the assembly and architecture of virus factories, replication complexes and morphogenetic pathways of several RNA viruses that are important human pathogens such as Bunyaviruses and Reoviruses.



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

de Castro IF, Fernández JJ, Barajas D, Nagy PD, Risco C. Three-dimensional imaging of the intracellular assembly of a functional viral RNA replicase complex. J. Cell Sci. 2017 Jan 1;130(1):260-268

Risco C, Fernández de Castro I, Sanz-Sánchez L, Narayan K, Grandinetti G, Subramaniam S. 3D imaging of viral infections. Annu Rev Virol 2014 Nov;1(1):453-73



Figure1RiscoThe project of the Cell Structure Laboratory makes use of current developments in imaging technology to study the biogenesis of viral factories and the structures that support virus replication, morphogenesis and egress. Recent developments in sample preparation and visualisation by light and electron microscopy are facilitating our understanding of the complex interactions that viruses trigger inside cells (Fernández de Castro et al. Cell Microbiol 2013). Among these new technologies, three-dimensional (3D) imaging is making a notable impact in the field of virology, as it helps us understand how viruses control cells (Risco et al. Annu Rev Virol 2014).

In the last two years, our group has characterised the architecture of the virus factory assembled by the human reovirus (Fernández de Castro et al. mBio 2014) and the role of the ESCRT machinery and oxysterol-binding proteins in the formation of the Tombusvirus replicase in intracellular membranes (Barajas et al. PLoS Pathog 2014; Barajas et al. PLoS Pathog 2014). This work was done in collaboration with Drs. Terry Dermody (Valderbilt University, TN, USA) and Dr. Peter D. Nagy (Kentucky University, USA). The assembly of the Tombusvirus replicase complex was visualized by metal-tagging transmission electron microscopy, a new, highly-sensitive nanotechnology developed in our lab that reveals proteins in cells with at molecular-scale resolution (Fernández de Castro et al. Methods Cell Biol 2014).

For the first time, we have 3D images that show how the viral replicase molecules change their organisation when incorporated into the active domains of the intracellular replication compartment. Several steps in the Bunyavirus life cycle were also characterised, including the organisation of the viral ribonucleoproteins in the infectious virions (Li et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2013), the assembly of viral factories and replication organelles in cells (Risco & Fernández de Castro Subcell Biochem 2013; Fernández de Castro & Risco Future Virol 2014) and the structures that facilitate virus egress and propagation (Sanz-Sánchez & Risco PLoS One 2013). In 2013, our group created the microscopy consulting service BioGrid Solutions to provide expert advice to scientists and companies.





Cristina Risco Ortiz Principal investigator
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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