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SclenLlsLs have long debaLed over Lhe lssue of llfe and whaL crlLerla musL be meL for someLhlng Lo be
allve. lor example lL was proposed LhaL an enLlLy musL move for lL Lo be allve, buL by Lhls descrlpLlon
Lhlngs llke Lrees would be non-llvlng. AnoLher less conLroverslal crlLerlon for deflnlng llfe ls Lhe ablllLy Lo
reproduce lndependenLly. A vlrus ls an organlsm wlLhouL Lhe means Lo reproduce by lLself so lL musL
overLake Lhe hosL cell's (lnfecLed cell) mechanlsms Lo repllcaLe. So for Lhls reason a vlrus ls noL
consldered llvlng," buL due Lo lLs efflclency ln repllcaLlon (produclng Lhousands of new parLlcles by Lhe
second or Lhlrd repllcaLlon cycle), vlruses pose a severe LhreaL Lo mulLl-cellular organlsms.
1he purpose of Lhls documenL ls Lo lnform Lhe general reader abouL Lhe mechanlsms vlruses use Lo
repllcaLe. lf Lhe reader ls famlllar wlLh some baslc cell blology much of Lhe dlscusslon ln Lhls documenL
should be easy Lo comprehend and Lhe auLhor wlll Lry hls besL Lo slmply explaln Lhe blologlcal
Lermlnology for Lhose readers who are noL. 1he vlral repllcaLlon process conslsLs of slx key sLeps:
aLLachmenL of Lhe vlrus, peneLraLlon lnLo Lhe cell, LransporLaLlon Lo Lhe nucleus, lnLegraLlon wlLh cell
unA, repllcaLlon of Lhe geneLlc maLerlal and assembly and release from cell, see flgure below for process
flow.

rocess flow of vlral repllcaLlon cycle
lmage from <hLLp://www.food-lnfo.neL/uk/vlrus/blochem.hLm>
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8efore a vlrus sLarLs lLs repllcaLlon lL musL flnd a sulLable hosL cell", Lhe cell Lhe vlrus wlll lnfecL. Many
cells have plasma membranes whlch medlaLe whaL enLers and exlLs Lhe cell, slmllar Lo a gaLe. 1he
plasma membrane ls Lhe flrsL obsLacle Lhe vlrus musL overcome ln order Lo repllcaLe. lasma
membranes conLaln blo-molecule (proLelns, llplds and sugars) recepLors whlch acL as markers." 1he
vlrus, whlch also expresses markers, ldenLlfles a cell by Lhe cellular markers. 1he vlrus Lhen aLLaches Lo
Lhe cell vla Lhe markers.
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Cnce Lhe vlrus has found Lhe cell Lo lnfecL, lL musL geL lLs geneLlc maLerlal, whlch conLalns Lhe
lnsLrucLlons Lo bulld more vlrus parLlcles, lnLo Lhe hosL cell. 1here are several mechanlsms a vlrus uses Lo
enLer Lhe cell. Cne mechanlsm ls by forcefully puncLurlng Lhe cell membrane and ln[ecLlng Lhe vlral unA
or 8nA (Lhe geneLlc maLerlal), see flgure below. AnoLher mechanlsm ls by geLLlng encapsulaLed by a
membrane veslcle (Lhe membrane plnches ln on lLself ln order Lo sample Lhe ouLslde envlronmenL)
whlch Lhen carrles Lhe vlrus lnLo Lhe cell.

lorceful ln[ecLlon of geneLlc maLerlal lnLo Lhe cell
lmage adapLed from hLLp://creaLlonwlkl.org/llle:nbL0104-31-l1.[pg

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Cnce lnslde Lhe cell, Lhe vlrus musL LransporL lLs geneLlc maLerlal Lo Lhe cell nucleus ln order Lo repllcaLe.
Some vlruses (Lhose LhaL enLered Lhrough veslcles) need Lo remove lLs geneLlc maLerlal from Lhe vlral
coaL, speclal proLelns ln Lhe cell wlll auLomaLlcally dlssolve Lhls coaL. 1he vlrus whlch ls only a few
nanomeLers long usually has Lo Lravel far lnslde Lhe cell (few mlcromeLers ln lengLh) Lo geL Lo Lhe
nucleus. 1he lnslde of Lhe cell ls very crowded, so Lhe vlrus cannoL slmply dlffuse Lhrough, some Lype of
acLlve LransporL ls needed. usually Lhe vlrus uses Lhe cell's sysLem of acLln and myosln fllamenLs (Lhese
fllamenL acL llke Lhe vehlcles and roadways Lo faclllLaLe LransporL) Lo be LransporLed Lo Lhe nucleus.
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When Lhe vlrus reaches Lhe nucleus, lL musL agaln overcome a membrane. Powever, Lhls ls easler Lhan
before as Lhe hl[acked LransporL mechanlsm wlll usually dellver Lhe vlral geneLlc code lnLo Lhe nucleus
wlLhouL much reslsLance.
Cne lssue however ls LhaL some vlruses, called reLrovlruses, conLaln 8nA as lLs geneLlc maLerlal, buL ln
Lhe cell unA ls Lhe lnformaLlon carrler. 1hese reLrovlruses make use of more speclal proLelns (reverse
LranscrlpLase) lnslde Lhe cell LhaL copy Lhe lnformaLlon from 8nA lnLo unA. 1he reverse Lranscrlbed unA
ls Lhen lnLegraLed lnLo Lhe cell, Lhe cell now belleves Lhe vlral unA ls parL of Lhe cell's unA.
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AfLer Lhe vlral geneLlc code has been lnLegraLed lnLo Lhe cell's geneLlc code, Lhe vlrus once agaln hl[acks
Lhe cell's mechanlsm Lo carry ouL lLs purpose. AL perlodlc lnLervals varlous enzymes and proLelns are
used Lo read and repllcaLe unA. 1he vlral geneLlc code ls usually also repllcaLed and Lranscrlbed aL Lhls
Llme.
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8eflLLlng of Lhe vlrus, for Lhe lasL sLep of Lhe repllcaLlon process Lhe vlrus once agaln commandeers Lhe
cellular componenLs Lo do lLs blddlng. Whlle vlral unA ls belng copled lL ls also belng read by Lhe cell's
mechanlsm whlch follows Lhe lnsLrucLlons conLalned ln Lhe vlral genes. 1he vlral geneLlc maLerlal ls
copled and Lranscrlbed lnLo 8nA, a copy of Lhe lnsLrucLlon Lo bulld Lhe vlrus. 1he 8nA ls Lhen shlpped
ouL of Lhe nucleus and lnLo Lhe cyLoplasm (ouLslde Lhe nucleus buL lnslde Lhe cell). Pere Lhe 8nA ls read
by speclflc proLelns and chemlcals, whlch follow Lhe lnsLrucLlons Lo consLrucL Lhe varlous parLs of Lhe
vlrus. ln some cases Lhe lnsLrucLlons also shuL down Lhe oLher funcLlons of Lhe cell, by dlverLlng all
resources Lo vlral producLlon Lhe vlrus opLlmlze vlral repllcaLlon, see flgure below.

ShuLdown of cellular mechanlsm Lo produce vlral parLlcles
lmage adapLed from hLLp://creaLlonwlkl.org/llle:nbL0104-31-l1.[pg

1hen Lhe parLs are assembled by oLher cellular mechanlsms. 1he repllcaLed geneLlc maLerlal ls
lnLegraLed lnLo Lhe assembled vlrus. llnally Lhe vlruses Lhen bursL ouL of Lhe cell, releaslng several new
vlral parLlcles whlle kllllng Lhe hosL cell ln Lhe process. 1he newly released parLlcles Lhen go and flnd
oLher cells Lo lnfecL and sLarL Lhe process agaln.
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8eproducLlon ls one of Lhe deflnlng crlLerla for llfe, and our geneLlc maLerlal carrles lnsLrucLlon on how
Lo reproduce and keep Lhe specles allve. vlruses also conLaln geneLlc maLerlal, buL have no means of
auLonomous reproducLlon so vlruses musL use a hosL cell's mechanlsm ln order Lo repllcaLe. 1he vlral
repllcaLlon process lnvolves slx sLeps: aLLachmenL, enLry of Lhe vlrus, LransporLaLlon Lo Lhe nucleus,
lnLegraLlon wlLh cell unA, repllcaLlon of Lhe geneLlc maLerlal and assembly and release from cell.
ulLlmaLely as vlruses repllcaLe, Lhey end up desLroylng Lhe hosL cells, and lf enough of Lhese cells are
desLroyed Lhe body becomes dlseased.