Structural biology of viral fibres



Mark Van Raaij

Group Leader



Research summary

Some viruses and bacteriophages attach to their host cell via proteins integral to their capsids, for example poliovirus, coxsackievirus and rhinovirus ('common cold virus'). Other viruses bind to their host cell receptors via specialised spike proteins (for example HIV, the AIDS-virus), or via specialised fibre proteins, like adenovirus, reovirus and bacteriophages like T4, T5, T7 and lambda (Ur). These fibres all have the same basic architecture: they are trimeric and contain an N-terminal virus or bacteriophage attachment domain, a long, thin, but stable shaft domain and a more globular C-terminal cell attachment domain.




Lence E, Maneiro M, Sanz-Gaitero M, van Raaij MJ, Thompson P, Hawkins AR, Gonzalez-Bello C. Self-Immolation of a Bacterial Dehydratase Enzyme by its Epoxide Product. Chemistry 2020, Apr 7. doi: 10.1002/chem.202000759. Online ahead of print. PMID: 32259333/p>

Islam MZ, Fokine A, Mahalingam M, Zhang Z, Garcia-Doval C, van Raaij MJ, Rossmann MG, Rao VB. Molecular anatomy of the receptor binding module of a bacteriophage long tail fiber. PLoS Pathog. 2019; Dec 19;15(12):e1008193. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1008193

Singh AK, Nguyen TH, Vidovszky MZ, Harrach B, Benkő M, Kirwan A, Joshi L, Kilcoyne M, Berbis MÁ, Cañada FJ, Jiménez-Barbero J, Menéndez M, Wilson SS, Bromme BA, Smith JG, van Raaij MJ. Structure and N-acetylglucosamine binding of the distal domain of mouse adenovirus 2 fibre. . J Gen Virol 2018; Nov;99(11):1494-1508. doi: 10.1099/jgv.0.001145.

Menéndez-Conejero R, Nguyen TH, Singh AK, Condezo GN, Marschang RE, van Raaij MJ, San Martín C. Structure of a Reptilian Adenovirus Reveals a Phage Tailspike Fold Stabilizing a Vertebrate Virus Capsid. . Structure 2017 Oct 3;25(10):1562-1573.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2017.08.007

Granell M, Namura M, Alvira S, Kanamaru S, van Raaij MJ. Crystal Structure of the Carboxy-Terminal Region of the Bacteriophage T4 Proximal Long Tail Fiber Protein Gp34. Viruses 2017 Jun 30;9(7):168. doi: 10.3390/v9070168.


Recognition of the correct host cell to infect is of crucial importance to a virus. Many viruses bind to their host cell receptors via specialised spike proteins or via specialised fibre proteins, like adenoviruses and bacteriophages. These fibres all have the same basic architecture: they are trimeric and contain an N-terminal virus or bacteriophage attachment domain, a long, thin, but stable shaft domain and a more globular C-terminal cell attachment domain. These trimeric, fibrous proteins are very stable to denaturation by temperature or detergents.

In the years 2017 and 2018, we have determined the structures of three receptor-binding proteins of Staphylococcal bacteriophage K and of two endolysin proteins. In addition, we collaborated with other research groups in crystallisation and structure solution of the proteins and peptides they produce. Knowledge of the structures of bacteriophage receptor-binding and endolysin proteins may lead to different biotechnological applications. Modification of the bacteriophage fibre receptor binding specificities may lead to improved detection of specific bacteria, while a better understanding of endolysin structure, stability and specificity may lead to better elimination of pathogenic or otherwise unwanted bacteria.





Mark J. van Raaij Principal investigator
Pablo Soriano Maldonado Postdoctoral scientist
Mateo Seoane Blanco Predoctoral scientists
Pilar Sánchez Soriano Technician

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