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Event Detail (Archived)

RNA vs DNA as Physical Objects: What’s Special about Viral Genomes?

  • This event already took place in December 2023
  • Carson Family Auditorium (CRC)

Event Details

Center for Studies in Physics and Biology Seminars
William Gelbart, Ph.D., distinguished professer, University of California, Los Angeles
Speaker bio(s)

Viruses are exceptional among evolving species in that the majority of them have single-stranded (ss) RNA genomes. One big advantage of ssRNA over double-stranded (ds) DNA is that it is a much more compact way of encoding genetic information. Not only do viruses have orders of magnitude fewer genes than do living things, but each of their genes "takes up less space" than do DNA genes, allowing virus particles to be small enough so that 1000s of them can fit in a host cell. In my talk I discuss how the compactness of RNA genes allows for the spontaneous formation (self-assembly) of infectious virus particles from purified RNA and capsid protein, and how the possibility of in vitro reconstitution of virus-like particles -- therapeutic mRNA encapsidated in a protein shell -- provides a natural basis for new gene delivery platforms.

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