This Web site will explore the historical developments that led to the determination of the structure and biological functions of viruses and their macromolecular components. We are attempting to investigate the history of how knowledge of the structure of viruses at atomic resolution has impinged on the more biological studies of viruses. We expect to obtain contributions to this history from two overlapping groups of scientists; those who were responsible for determining the structures and those whose work was directly influenced by that information.
The last few years have seen an explosive increase in the number of atomic structures of virus proteins and of intact viruses based on x-ray diffraction data; for the latter there are also increasing contributions to structure determination from cryoelectron microscopic images. We expect (and hope) that many of the contributions to this Web site will come from scientists directly involved in structure determination. At the same time we want to engage in a discussion of the impact of that structural knowledge on the historical development of biological concepts as well as on how these have influenced the design of antiviral drugs.
We are initially going to explore two specific types of structures - icosahedral RNA viruses and viral membrane glycoproteins as exemplified by the influenza hemagglutinin. Information about these structures has had broad implications in the field of molecular virology and in the development of vaccines. The historical documentation of these contributions would be much richer if the impact of the structural information on virological research were obtained from a diverse group of scientists.
We have set the stage by providing a chronology of the
history of structural virology and along side of this are some landmarks in the history of
virology. Science is not carried out in a vacuum and a chronology of a specific field can
be enriched by setting it in the context of its time. The timeline is idiosyncratic and
incomplete. We welcome additions. Visit the