The intracellular development of three pox viruses has been studied with the electron microscope using thin sections of infected tissue.
Cells infected with vaccinia, ectromelia, and molluscum contagiosum viruses all form developmental bodies preliminary to the production of mature virus. Developmental bodies, believed to be virus precursors, are round to oval, slightly larger than mature virus particles, less dense to electrons, and have a more varied morphology.
It is suggested as a working hypothesis that the process of maturation of a virus particle takes place as follows. In the earliest form the developmental bodies appear as hollow spheres, imbedded in a very dense cytoplasmic mass constituting an inclusion body, or in a less dense matrix near the nucleus in cells without typical inclusion bodies. The spheres become filled with a homogeneous material of low electron density. A small, dense granule appears in each developmental body and grows in size at the expense of the low density material. Following growth of the granule, particles are found with the dimensions of mature virus and having complex internal structure resembling bars or dumbells. Mature virus is ovoid and very dense to electrons. An "empty" interior may be found within its thick walls.