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Research Feature

Transmission electron micrograph image of rotavirus particles

NIAID researchers and colleagues are pursuing a safer, more effective rotavirus vaccine regimen.

Rotavirus

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Diagram of a rotavirus

A rotavirus is a wheel-shaped virus that gets its name from its complex shape (‘rota’ means wheel in Latin). Its genome consists of 11 double-stranded RNA segments that generate six structural proteins (VP1, VP2, VP3, VP4, VP6 & VP7) and six nonstructural proteins (NSP1-6). Each virus particle as shown is surrounded by a triple layer coat composed of the different structural proteins.

The outer protein coat is made of VP4 and VP7 proteins. The VP4 forms spikes on the outer coat and attaches the virion to the host cell, playing a key role in cell penetration and virulence. Rotavirus’s VP7 protein, which forms most of the outer layer, is the main target for the host’s protective antibodies.

VP6 forms the middle shell, or capsid, of the virion and is the most antigenic of the rotavirus structural proteins.

The inner core of a rotavirus consists of RNA strands and three structural proteins. VP2 is the main structural component of the innermost layer. Along with the viral RNA, two additional structural proteins, VP1 and VP3, are enclosed within the VP2 layer and play a crucial role in RNA replication.

Last Updated July 19, 2010

Last Reviewed July 16, 2010