These papers give an account of an optical and x-ray examination of preparations of plant virus substances isolated by Bawden and Pirie, in particular of those of tobacco mosaic disease. They open with a historical survey of the work, indicating the order in which new phenomena were discovered. The subsequent treatment is divided into three parts:
I. Introduction and preparation of specimens.
II. Modes of aggregation of virus particles.
III. (1) The structure of the particles.
(2) Biological implications.
Part I, after an historical introduction, describes the method of preparation, from solutions of the virus, of optically oriented specimens of different concentrations. For their examination special x-ray apparatus was developed, in particular cameras working with very low angles and capable of indicating spacings up to 1000 Å.
In Part III, Section 1 deals with the x-ray evidence on the internal structure of the particles. Even in solution, they have an inner regularity like that of a crystal. Virus preparations are thus in a sense doubly crystalline. Closer analysis reveals that the x-ray patterns are not directly comparable to those of a crystal as many of the reflections do not obey Bragg's law, but can be understood on the theory of gratings of limited size. The structure seems to consist of sub-units of the dimensions of approximately 11 Å cube, fitted together in a hexagonal or pseudohexagonal lattice of dimensions—a = 87 Å, c = 68 Å. Contrary to what earlier observations seemed to indicate, the particle seems to be virtually unchanged by drying and must therefore contain little water. There are marked resemblances with the structure of both crystalline and fibrous protein, but the virus structure does not belong to any of the classes hitherto studied. There are indications that the inner structure is of a simpler character than that of the molecules of crystalline proteins.
Part III, Section 2 contains a comparative study of the optical and x-ray examinations of three strains of tobacco mosaic virus, two of cucumber disease virus, two of potato virus X, and the virus of bushy stunt disease of tomato. In the last case x-ray measurement confirmed the deduction from its cubic crystal habit that it was composed of spherical rather than long particles, and showed that these had a diameter when dry of 276 Å and were arranged in a body-centred cubic close packing. This single example is sufficient to show that the elongated particle form which gives rise to all the anomalous physical properties of the other viruses studied is of no essential biological importance. The similarity and differences observed between the physical properties of these preparations run closely parallel to their clinical and serological classification. Finally, the biological implications of these results are discussed together with possible applications of the new methods of examination to the study of colloid and biological problems.