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Interviewer: Professor Montse Bárcena, thank you very much for
taking the time to do this interview with us today to discuss
your recent discovery of a coronavirus-specific RNA export protein complex.
Let me start by asking you first of all,
if you could provide us with some background to
this recently published research from yourself and co-workers in the journal 'Science',
in particular with respect to the rationale of
the investigation and how this research was carried out.
Prof. Bárcena: Of course. A crucial step for coronaviruses
once they infect the cells,
is the synthesis of viral RNA.
The virus uses this process, for example,
to make new copies of its genome, which is RNA,
and these copies will be incorporated into
new virions which will exit the cell and propagate infection.
Coronaviruses do it in a
very peculiar way,
also other positive-strand viruses
like coronaviruses follow the same strategy.
But coronaviruses hijack intracellular membranes, and create
very unusual compartments that they use for this process of viral RNA synthesis.
In the case of coronaviruses,
these compartments are double-membrane vesicles, which we call DMVs.
These compartments (these DMVs) could provide
an optimal micro-environment for the process to concentrate components,
and very importantly also to shield the process from sensors in the cell that could
detect replication intermediates, and launch
an innate immune response against the viral infection.
What was very mysterious about these double-membrane vesicles that we