Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Key target for Foot and Mouth drug revealed


A complete picture of Foot-and-Mouth Disease’s key replication enzyme could lead to the development of new drugs to control the disease without recourse to vaccination or slaughter, scientists report today.

By solving the structure of the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus (FMDV) enzyme named ’3C protease’ scientists have taken an essential step towards developing protease inhibitors, a class of anti-viral drug that has proved hugely successful in controlling HIV.

The structure paves the way for their development by revealing the atomic details of the key viral enzyme that would serve as a target for drugs.

3C protease’s function is to help the virus replicate itself. A drug that binds and inhibits FMDV 3C protease would stop its spread by blocking its replication and thus its ability to infect a herd.

"In an outbreak we would ’dose up’ the animals and in theory they would be protected immediately," said Dr Stephen Curry of Imperial College London and senior author of the research paper, published in Journal of Biological Chemistry this week. "In contrast, vaccines take several days to have effect and that allows further spread of the disease."

"Our work is a very first step in developing an effective drug to do this. We can see what the enzyme looks like and it gives us an idea of what sort of shapes and types of molecule could bind specifically to the enzyme and block it."

The Imperial researchers are now designing a molecule to act as an inhibitor.

Together with Professor Robin Leatherbarrow of the Department of Chemistry, Dr Curry’s team from the Division of Cell and Molecular Biology has probed the specificity of the 3C enzyme in the hope of developing peptide-like inhibitors, similar to those successful in tackling HIV. Professor Leatherbarrow is mapping out the key amino acid sequences that the protease snips in-between, a process called ’peptide cleavage analysis’.

"We’ve determined the key features of peptides that are recognised by the FMDV 3C protease. Now we can start working on making the inhibitors," said Dr Curry.

During the devastating outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth in the UK in 2001, there was much debate as to whether vaccines should be used to control the disease. They were not deployed and the government relied on mass slaughter of five million animals to bring the epidemic under control.

Protease inhibitors were developed against HIV in the 1980s and 1990s, the first going on sale in 1996. However, interactions between the drugs and the HIV virus have given rise to drug-resistant strains, reducing the treatment’s effectiveness.

Although the same strategy is being adopted, Dr Curry does not foresee the same happening with an FMDV protease inhibitor due to the intrinsic differences between the diseases:

"HIV is a very long term infection, taking 10-15 years to overwhelm the body. That gives the virus plenty of time to develop resistance to anti-viral drugs. FMDV is highly contagious, much easier to get than HIV, and has a rapid onset, which is why outbreaks tend to spread so rapidly," said Dr Curry. "If you wanted to control an FMDV outbreak you could in theory swamp the livestock population with anti-viral drugs for a few weeks and hopefully eradicate the outbreak very quickly."

The 23,000 Dalton (weight) enzyme, is made of 213 amino acids, and is folded into a classic protease form, similar to those seen in poliovirus, hepatitis A virus and human rhinovirus, the major cause of the common cold.

The structure took over four years to solve, the start of research pre-dating the 2001 Foot-and-Mouth outbreak. The greatest problems came in making crystals of the 3C protease so that its structure could be solved by X-ray crystallography -- a particularly taxing task to solve for then beginning PhD student and first author of this paper, Dr James Birtley.

The work was supported by the Biological and Biotechnological Sciences Research Council, the Fleming Fund (Imperial College London), and the Medical Research Council.

Tom Miller | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders
24.10.2016 | Baylor College of Medicine

nachricht New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground
24.10.2016 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>