Skip to main content
Email Print Share

"Shuttle Bug" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio
The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.

The flu virus uses a shuttle mechanism to relay protons through a channel in a process necessary for the virus to infect a host cell, according to a research project led by Mei Hong of Iowa State University and the Ames Laboratory.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

The Viral Channel.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

The 'viral' I'm referring to is the flu virus. The 'channel' is part of the mechanism that the virus uses to get the flu to you.

In a study led by scientists at Iowa State University, we get a new look at an old nemesis. Through the use of solid state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or NMR, they were able to see incredible detail -- much more than with conventional high resolution techniques and determine the structure and workings of the protein channel that interfaces a flu virus with a healthy cell.

The lifecycle of the typical flu virus: virus attaches to healthy cell. (Sound effect: cartoon suck-on sound) The healthy cell surrounds the virus and takes it inside. (Sound effect: cartoon envelope sound) The flu virus releases a protein to open a channel in the cell. (Sound effect: cartoon squirt sound) The channel shuttles protons from the healthy cell into the virus and raises its acidity. (Sound effect: light rail sound) Triggering the virus to release its genetic material into the healthy cell (Sound effect: muted explosion sound), then the virus hijacks the cell's resources to replicate itself. (Sound effect: factory stamping out sound) This happens until you've got a full-blown sneezy, sniffly, shaky, sweaty, achy case of the flu. (Sound effect: ah-chooo!)

The researchers believe that through understanding the mechanism by which influenza takes hold, we may be able to design drugs to stop the proton shuttle -- and the flu -- in its tracks. (Sound effect: screeching train brakes)

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

MP3 icon
NSF podcasts are in mp3 format for easy download to desktop and laptops, as well as mobile devices capable of playing them.