Membrane fusion is a key step during the cell entry of enveloped viruses. This dynamic process is mediated by a viral surface protein. As a common mechanism, the viral protein changes its conformation within the endosome to initiate membrane fusion. In most cases, the conformational change is triggered by the acidic pH when the endosome matures. The consequence of the conformational change in the viral fusion protein includes projection of the originally hidden fusion peptide, and refolding of the viral protein to bring the viral and endosomal membranes close to each other. In previous studies, no techniques are capable of monitoring this dynamic process at the molecular level, or its structural/chemical modifications. We study this dynamic process using a unique high-resolution hyperspectral nano-imaging technique of a single virus in vitro in the infrared spectral range.

Plant biomass represents an abundant renewable resource for biofuel and bioproduct production that is projected to supply about 10% of all human energy use. A major technical barrier to commercialize biomass utilization is the high processing costs required to deconstruct plant cell walls, the bulk of biomass, into usable sugars. We study high spatial resolution analysis of correlated chemical and structural organization of the different polymers that make up the plant cell wall and probe their relationship with each other during deconstruction.