Many human viruses are enveloped in a lipid membrane. To deliver their genome into a host cell, enveloped viruses must fuse their lipid membrane with a cellular membrane. In a recent study Yorgo Modis and colleagues, from the Department of Medicine University Research Unit in the MRC-LMB, tracked virus particles from the flavivirus genus as they fused their membrane with synthetic target membranes. This work identified key physicochemical requirements for membrane fusion of flaviviruses, which include important human pathogens such as dengue virus. The complex kinetics of the membrane fusion reaction were also dissected. The image shows snapshots of two Japanese encephalitis virus-like particles labeled with a fluorescent dye and imaged by confocal total internal reflection microscopy as they fused with a target membrane. Mixing of the viral membrane lipids with target membrane lipids diluted the dye, initially causing an increase in fluorescence (from dequenching), followed by fluorescence decay as the fluorophore diffused away into the target membrane.
For further details see: http://vir.sgmjournals.org/content/early/2015/03/04/vir.0.000113.abstract