Virus structure and classification | Cells | MCAT | Khan Academy
- Articles, Blog

Virus structure and classification | Cells | MCAT | Khan Academy

Viruses are interesting because they are the robot hackers of microbiology, and in this video, we’re gonna learn about what, exactly, makes them so good at being robot hackers. So let’s think about the
things that define viruses. There’s four things
we’re going to look at. First, they’re really, really small. So, size. The virus is about that big. Compared to that tiny virus, this would be the size
of a typical bacterium. It is 100 times larger than a virus. If you can just imagine this being, well, I clearly didn’t
draw this large enough, but you can just imagine that there’s 100 viruses across here, and this would be 100 times larger, and a typical eukaryotic cell,
like our own human cells, would pretty much not fit on this page. You can kind of imagine,
since it’s 1000 times bigger, it would form a circle
that just goes straight off on either end of this quarter
circle that I’ve drawn, kind of forming a full circle, just going all the way around. So, we talked about size between viruses, bacteria, and our human cells, but, there’s another aspect of size, which is, the size of viruses
compared to each other, and of course, some viruses
are larger than others, and that’s one way to tell
different viruses apart. Some are super small, and
other ones are just small. I could have drawn bigger and smaller dots that represent viruses. Now, the next thing that you
can tell viruses apart with is their shape. Just think about these tiny,
little things being blown up. We’re just gonna talk about why they look like they look, and what causes them to be
the shapes that they are. So, all viruses have this capsid. It’s a protein code, and, they’re all very unique shapes. You can think of them as
the legos of these viruses. Legos because they need
these little building blocks called the capsomers to build their shape. So I’m just building them
with these little blobs here that you can see on the screen, and, even though I haven’t
drawn this really well, they’re actually all the same size, and all the same shape
for that particular virus. So each of these little things
would be called a capsomer, and these capsomers form
these three really beautiful three-dimensional shapes, so this looks kind of 2D, but if you can imagine
kind of like a six-pointed, three-dimensional looking… This kind of six-sided diamond-like shape is called the icosahedral configuration, and there’s also something that, if you first look at it, it looks kind of helical, but again, it’s not formed like this. It’s actually lots of little monomers that wrap around, kind of like a helix, and it looks actually
more like a cylinder, but, this, because it
wraps around like that, is called a helical shape, and one other possibility is the spherical shape, so this gray line that
I’ve drawn is an envelope, and it sometimes covers the capsid, and I say sometimes, because not all viruses have this envelope. It kind of gives it an advantage that we’re gonna talk about later, so, any one of these
options can be inside, and, if you can imagine,
since it’s an envelope, wrapping that protein code in a circle, this is the spherical shape, like a ball. So that’s two of four things
to distinguish viruses with. Now here’s the third one. This is also pretty straight-forward. It’s just the genetic
information contained in viruses, the nucleic acid. So, there are actually four options. So viruses are really cool
because they can contain one type of nucleic acid. In fact, they only contain that type. So you’ve seen double-stranded DNA before, which is in most of your human cells. You’ve also seen single-stranded RNA, kind of like your messenger RNA, but you probably haven’t seen some single-stranded DNA, or double-stranded RNA, and this is pretty unique to viruses. They’re special, because they contain one of these types of nucleic acids. This is one of the ways
to distinguish them. So, a virus can be a single-stranded DNA virus, or a single-stranded RNA virus. They can not be both, and that’s why nucleic acids
are that third category. It distinguishes viruses from each other, and this genetic information
can’t just float around. It actually is kind of packaged. It’s stored inside of the protein coat, and because this is called a capsid, and this is nucleic acid, when they’re put together
to form that virus, and I’m just going to simplify
that icosahedral drawing into this kind of hexagon shape, and let’s just pretend it’s a single-stranded RNA virus, then this is called a nucleocapsid, and again, this might,
or might not be envelope. This one here that I’ve drawn is non-envelope, because it doesn’t have a gray dotted line surrounding it. So now that we’ve gone
over these first three basic ways to tell viruses apart, size, shape, nucleic acid, we can now go back and
figure out why I said that viruses are robot hackers. And that actually will give us the fourth way to tell
viruses apart, right? So, I’m just gonna write here, robot hacker, because if you look back at
what we just talked about, viruses are really small, and they’re made up of proteins, and one type of nucleic acid, they don’t have organelles, and that means, they can’t make ATP, or
energy for themselves, and they can’t really replicate, then, because they don’t have organelles, so that’s one problem, because
all living things metabolize, so that’s the robot part, and they sneak in to larger
cells that have organelles, that they can take over to make copies of themselves. So the official term for
robot hackers in biology is obligate, it absolutely needs to be inside a cell, obligate intracellular parasite. Hacks onto other things to survive, and because it needs to do that, you can probably guess now, that the fourth way to tell these apart, is by the type of host. So one question people always ask is that, “Well, is a bacteriophage
a virus, or what is it?” So, it’s actually the name for viruses that infect bacteria, and the ones that infect eukaryotic cells, for example, us humans, they’re all different enough in size, shape, nucleic acid, and disease that they cause, that they have some pretty famous names, like pox virus, or herpes virus, or parvovirus, and there’s so many more, so, these robot hackers hack in using some special methods that I haven’t mentioned yet, and they actually both have to do with shape adaptations, which makes sense, because,
that’s the outside part of the virus that comes
in contact with the cells, because if they weren’t good
at getting into the cells, they would never make
copies of themselves, so, as robot hackers, they must do something special to get in, and bacteriophages have this complex shape. They are not just icosahedral or helical. They might have that initial, that nucleocapsid at the top, with the head portion that contains the nucleic acid, but it also has a sheath acting like a needle that the nucleic acid can be shot down, and a tail that attaches
to the host bacteria, so, even though I’ve drawn it this way, you can actually imagine it attaching to the bacteria like this, because the tail will bind it, and it will act,
literally, like a needle to inject the bacteria. And I’m gonna use this
eukaryotic cell as an example for this other shape quirk
that lets viruses get in, because the eukaryotic
cell that I’ve drawn here is so large, it’s just got
this giant line of membrane for me to draw on, and basically, if it can’t inject its genetic material
like the complex virus, then it sneaks in, and I keep saying that, but the reason I’m saying “it sneaks,” is because every cell has
receptors on its surface, and these usually are regular receptors that cells need to communicate
information to and from, but viruses take advantage of that. These receptors can’t really
tell the difference between normal signals, or normal cells, and a viral cell, so, this icosahedral or helical thing will come along, and signal to these receptors, and it’ll trick the receptors
into forming this pit, and eventually, it will
bud off into an endosome, and it just kind of sits happily inside, having sneaked in, and you might recognize as endocytosis, endocytosis entering the cell, so they made up this big, fancy name for a very simple, it entered
the cell with receptors, receptor mediated endocytosis, receptors, endosome, and, the sneaky reason as to why some cells have these gray envelopes
that I mentioned before to give them that spherical shape, that just gives them an extra way in, so they can also enter with the receptor mediated endocytosis, so I’m just gonna draw a gray dotted line around this one area, so you can kind of imagine that, yes, if it had an envelope,
it could also enter this way, but it has an extra option, and that’s because it already has this bubble, so it signals to the membrane, “Hey, I’m just going to fuse with you. “I’m gonna combine with you, “and let myself in,” and they kind of got
fancy with this name, too, and because it directly
fuses with the membrane to let itself in, it’s
called direct fusion. And now you have a general idea of how to tell viruses apart, and how they really are the robot hackers of the microbiology world.

About James Carlton

Read All Posts By James Carlton

34 thoughts on “Virus structure and classification | Cells | MCAT | Khan Academy

  1. I miss the 720p quality. The writing is a little fuzzy when it's just at 360. But all in all a really good explanation. Thank you very much for everything you all do.

  2. hey guys i need help really bad, i have a presentation in microbiology about varicella zoster (it's a virus that causes chicken pox), does anyone who studied this knows how the virus is build? does it have a lipid diaphragm, how is the virus builded, in which part of the year is it common like summer or? i need help please! hope you understand, i'm don't speak english very good. please! and also how is herpes zoster build?

  3. What happens to the original bacteriophage after injecting the bacteria with its DNA/RNA? Is there a "wear out date" for a virus or does it hang out until consumed by the immune system? Thanks in advance

  4. Great video, thanks.
    I think we should start giving viruses better press because the science on them would then improve also. When something is classed as the bad we are inclined to jump to conclusions that enhance that view. Viruses might be totally necessary for life.

  5. I liked the term "robot hacker' the synonym of "obligate intracellular parasite",, loved the video so much! Thank you Khan Academy!

  6. what makes the bacteria do this to humans what made these things and why do they exist. its like a perfect way of getting into the human body…

  7. Future RN here. Currently bedridden with the flu and studying so watching this series seemed fitting lol. Very helpful, thank you!

  8. I have one question: Do bacteriophages attack only bacterias? what about eukaryotic cells? You viral replication video mentions that there are three mechanisms of invading a host. So does it mean bacteriophages sneak eukaryotic cells?

  9. For those complaining of audibility and drawing, I wish to remind you that we see and hear what we are. If you are discontent, the honorable thing to do is to post your videos that will outshine this. Until then, please do us a favor, shut up.

  10. please tell me I have non viral hep I'm came out neg for HEP ABCDE on a routine test ever six months at my Suboxone clinic (I got to for pain caused by EDS autoimmune disease). My liver enzymes were AST/70 ALT/172. I am not a drinker and don't do drugs eat pretty healthy so I see my PCP on the 20th and I called my psychologist who told me to discontinue my medication been on for years immediately! That's when I started to worry am I really sick, is there something seriously wrong, this more serious than I thought. I was a teen mom who worked through college and now that my husband and are 33 we finally made it! he has a great job in Orlando after living in a poverty stricken town in rural Ohio all ARE LIVES TILL do I cancelled my flight on the 21st please tell me your opinion on my embers

  11. So if two types of viruses were in the same cell (if thats even possible. If or the other invades a cell) would they somewhat coexist for the moment they invade a cell or would one simply invade another unoccupied cell?

  12. A little before 5 mins, she mentions viruses cannot contain both genomic material but that has been since then disproved.

  13. i don't know when i was attending the virus class in school …i started to feel this kind of enmity towards them ..almost like someone tries to rob my house …Anyone?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *