This sculpture made of purple and clear glass beads depicts bacteriophage Phi174, a virus that infects bacteria. It rests on a surface that portrays an adaptive landscape, a conceptual visualization. The ridges represent the gene combinations associated with the greatest fitness levels of the virus, as measured by how quickly the virus can reproduce itself. Phi174 is an important model system for studies of viral evolution because its genome can readily be sequenced as it evolves under defined laboratory conditions.
Featured in the March 21, 2006, issue of Biomedical Beat. Holly Wichman, University of Idaho. (Surface by A. Johnston; photo by J. Palmersheim)