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With domestic knowledge of destructive virus to much healthier potatoes



Potato, with corn, wheat and rice, is certainly one of the most important crops in the world and an important factor in ensuring a high quality and nutritious diet all over the world.

She does not attack only potatoes

This extremely important plant greatly threatens – and destroys – the potato virus Y (PVY, potato virus Y).

The most common is potatoes, but also tobacco, peppers, tomatoes, raspberries, petunias, apples and other plants. Spreads with leafy ears and saddles potato tubers.




Head of Research Dr. Sc. Marjatka Podobnik.


Head of Research Dr. Sc. Marjatka Podobnik.
Photo: Ana Kovač

A plant attacked by this virus may present serious signs of the disease, but complete crop destruction may occur. Symptoms of the disease may appear on leaves, but the most endangered signs of gum disease are not suitable for further use.




Signs of serious illness on leaves may appear on plants attacked by potato virus Y, and producers are most affected by gum disease signs, which are then unsuitable for further use.


Signs of serious illness on leaves may appear on plants attacked by potato virus Y, and producers are most affected by gum disease signs, which are then unsuitable for further use.
Photo: National Institute of Biology

Potato virus Y killed a bride in Slovenia

The exact susceptibility to the potato virus Y has produced a few decades ago of a variety of potato chips, which was then bred in three quarters of all potato fields throughout Slovenia.

New structural and functional investigations of this virus's protein proteins, which are largely done by Slovenian scientists in Slovenia, will be a step closer to effectively preventing the damage caused by this virus.



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The first recognized the structure of potato virus Y in high resolution

For many years, scientists have been trying to understand how the virus works – how to infect the plant and how it spreads through it, and how its interaction with plant and carriers – leafy ears.




Potato symptoms after Y virus infection with potato


Potato symptoms after Y virus infection with potato
Photo: National Institute of Biology

Researchers of the Chemical Institute, together with researchers from the National Institute of Biology in Ljubljana and the Ceitec Institute in Brno, Czech Republic, used cryoelectronic microscopy to first determine the three-dimensional structure of potato virus Y and high resolution virus of a similar particle.

What is cryoelectronic microscopy?

The simplest cryoelectronic microscopy is an electron microscopy at a very low temperature, or about -195 ° C. It enables the determination of the biomolecule structure in a high resolution solution.

The developers of this technology, Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson, have jointly and equally received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their contribution to this method in 2017, which opened up new opportunities for determining the structure of large biological molecules and complexes of flexible molecules in natural environment. , cells or tissues at high resolution.




Jacques Dubochet of the University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland is one of three scientists (the other two are Joachim Frank from Columbia University in New York and Richard Henderson of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK), who in 2017 received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for Development cryoelectronic microscopy, which simplifies and improves the use of high resolution biomolecules.


Jacques Dubochet of the University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland is one of three scientists (the other two are Joachim Frank from Columbia University in New York and Richard Henderson of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK), who in 2017 received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for Development cryoelectronic microscopy, which simplifies and improves the use of high resolution biomolecules.
Photo: Reuters

The virus's flexibility is the basis of its destructive power

Viral-like particles differ from viruses in the absence of nucleic acids that are inheritors of the hereditary record, but have, like viruses, the protein shell and both make very moving long and thin threads.

The structure comparison suggests that the lining protein has the ability to adapt the form to various environmental factors, allowing the virus to interact with different virus components, virus vectors (leaf ears) and host (plant) throughout the life cycle.




The atomic model of the viral protein structure (top) that forms in the viral particle (left) in the presence of viral RNA, in the absence of viral RNA, is in a particle similar to the virus (right).


The atomic model of the viral protein structure (top) that forms in the viral particle (left) in the presence of viral RNA, in the absence of viral RNA, is in a particle similar to the virus (right).
Photo: Chemical Institute

Publish in a reputable scientific journal

The article on this research, whose results can help find preventative strategies for plant protection against infection with this virus, was adopted and published in the prestigious international science journal Science Advances.

The title of the article is Structural basis for multipurpose nature of protein Y potato capsules (The protein structure of the Y protein is explained by its multilayer effect, DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.aaw3808).




potato virus Y


Photo: Chemical Institute

The editorial policy of this journal accepts only the highest quality research in many areas of science and engineering, which further confirms the extraordinary significance of this achievement and is proudly emphasized at the Chemical Institute.




Head of Research Dr. Sc. Marjanka Podobnik announced that in the future will focus on the possibility of using viral particles in various applications in the field of biotechnology and synthetic biology and in designing new advanced materials based on biological molecules.


Head of Research Dr. Sc. Marjanka Podobnik announced that in the future will focus on the possibility of using viral particles in various applications in the field of biotechnology and synthetic biology and in designing new advanced materials based on biological molecules.
Photo: Ana Kovač

Good example of interdisciplinary cooperation

"The publication in the renowned International Science Advances magazine raises the reputation of the Chemical Institute and all the countries, encourages the motivation of collaborators who have participated in the research and opens the doors for further development of their careers," says the director of the Chemical Institute prof. Dr. Gregor Anderluh, who is himself one of the 15 participants in this research.

At the same time, Anderluh mentions this interdisciplinary research project, lasting more than five years, as an excellent example of combining knowledge from different areas and shifting scientific and engineering boundaries.




Andreja Kežar from the Chemistry Institute (left) is the first author of an article in scientific research. The National Institute of Biology, on the right, Dr. Maja Ravnikar, Head of the Department of Biotechnology and Systematic Biology, was involved in the research.


Andreja Kežar from the Chemistry Institute (left) is the first author of an article in scientific research. The National Institute of Biology, on the right, Dr. Maja Ravnikar, Head of the Department of Biotechnology and Systematic Biology, was involved in the research.
Photo: Ana Kovač

About the magazine Scientific progress

magazine Scientific progress American Association for Progress in ScienceAmerican Association for the Promotion of Science, AAAS). Scientific progress was created to expand the prestige magazine's capacity science, in order to promote the most important and highest quality results from all fields of science and engineering.

The remarkable importance of this young magazine Scientific progress it also reflects on the rapidly growing influence factor, which in the year 2018 amounted to 12,804 and could continue to grow in the future, mainly due to the great popularity among the authors.

The first cryoelectronic microscope in the region has just come to the Chemical Institute

Head of Research Dr. Sc. Marjanka Podobnik announced that in the future will focus on the possibility of using viral particles in various applications in the field of biotechnology and synthetic biology and in designing new advanced materials based on biological molecules.






"The publication in the renowned International Science Advances magazine raises the reputation of the Chemical Institute and all the countries, encourages the motivation of collaborators who have participated in the research and opens the doors for further development of their careers," says the director of the Chemical Institute prof. Dr. Gregor Anderluh, who is himself one of the 15 participants in this research.
Photo: Ana Kovač

"Applied knowledge on cryoelectronic microscopy will be used in our other research projects and, above all, using our new microelectric microscope," she announced.

These days, a new cryoelectronic microscope worth millions of euros is installed at the Chemical Institute. This is the first microscope in our region to capture biological samples under cryogenic conditions (low temperatures), which will be available to other Slovenian and international researchers.




New knowledge about the structure of potato virus Y and a similar virus fragment opens up many new possibilities and applications, particularly in nanotechnological applications, such as delivery of molecules, vaccine preparation, biosensors and nanoreactors, and design of new materials and nanoparticles.


New knowledge about the structure of potato virus Y and a similar virus fragment opens up many new possibilities and applications, particularly in nanotechnological applications, such as delivery of molecules, vaccine preparation, biosensors and nanoreactors, and design of new materials and nanoparticles.
Photo: Chemical Institute

For a better understanding of disease in plants

The following research steps are foreseen at the Department of Biotechnology and Biology of the National Institute of Biology in Ljubljana.

"At the National Institute of Biology, we are looking forward to a better understanding of the structure and functions of individual building blocks of virus in close collaboration with the researchers of the Chemical Institute, which enables us to understand the development of diseases in plants," said Dr. Maja Ravnikar.




Steps in determining the three-dimensional structure of potato virus Y and cryoelectronic microscopy virus


Steps in determining the three-dimensional structure of potato virus Y and cryoelectronic microscopy virus
Photo: Martin Polak, Chemical Institute

Who participated in the research

The research was conducted under the guidance of Dr. Sc. Marljka Podobnik from the Department of Molecular Biology and Nanobiotechnology at the Chemical Institute, where they did most of the work. Andrija Kežar, the first author of the article and the largest share of research, is also from the same department, Dr. Kavčič and Dr. Kavčič, PhD. Gregor Anderluh.

From the National Institute of Biology, Department of Biotechnology and Systems Biology, Dr. Ion Gutiérrez-Aguirre, Dr. Magda Tušek Žnidarič, Ph.D. Anna Coll, Katja Stare, Ph.D. Kristina Gruden and Ph.D. Maja Ravnikar.

A researcher from the Ceitec Institute (Central European Institute of Technology) in Brno, Czech Republic, Dr. Jiří Nováček and Dr. Martin Polák, who at that time used their cryoelectronic microscope.


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