Watercolour and ink on paper illustration of a cross section through the capsid (red; conical shape) from an HIV virus after it has entered a target cell (blue; usually a CD4 T cell, a type of white blood cell found in the immune system). Once inside the infected target cell the capsid protein uncoats, releasing viral RNA (yellow) and viral proteins (red and purple) into the cytoplasm of the target cell. Reverse transcriptase (purple; three of these are seen here at the centre of the image attached to viral RNA and DNA) then creates a DNA copy (green) of the HIV RNA genome (yellow), using transfer RNA (blue; two of these are seen here at the centre of the image attached to viral RNA and DNA) from the host target cell as primer. HIV nucleocapsid protein (lots of small red molecules seen here attached to viral RNA) acts as a chaperone to unfold the RNA so that it can be copied in this way. This process of making DNA from an RNA template is called reverse transcription. Width of image is approximately 100 nm.
This image forms part of a series of illustrations which capture HIV at eight different points in the viral life cycle as it infects a cell and replicates.