Reporting in the April issue of the Journal of Virology, the researchers have identified a protein that plays an important role in the ability of the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) to invade healthy cells and reproduce itself. The finding could play a role in vaccine development and also help scientists develop anti-viral agents to stop similar viruses in their tracks.
Although VSV infects animals, it is not a human pathogen. Nevertheless, scientists study it because of its similarity to viruses such as Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever viruses, as well as rabies virus. "VSV is a good model of a variety of other viruses," said John Connor, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of biochemistry. "Our research has given us a better understanding of how viruses like these are able to do the nasty things they do."
The scientists set out to study the role of a protein known as "matrix," which is produced by VSV. They suspected matrix was important in how VSV is assembled, but unexpectedly discovered the matrix protein is critical in how the virus reproduces and spreads. When they altered the matrix protein, they weakened the virus’ ability to reproduce. The finding has several important implications, Connor said.
Normally, VSV is extremely powerful, with the ability to shut down a cell’s system for making proteins. VSV then takes over the cell’s protein-making machinery and makes its own proteins so it can replicate and spread. The scientists were able to weaken this power by altering the matrix protein, so that VSV cannot make as much protein and does not reproduce as well.
Weakened viruses such as this are often used to make vaccines because they are less likely to be harmful. Currently, another weakened form of VSV is being used for a HIV vaccine that is being tested in humans. To make the vaccine, scientists started with the weakened VSV virus and added a protein from the HIV virus so that VSV "expresses" or makes a fragment of the HIV virus. In theory, when people are inoculated with the vaccine, they will develop antibodies to the HIV protein, and if they are exposed to the actual HIV virus, their bodies will neutralize it and kill it before it infects them.
In all, several weakened forms of VSV have been developed and at least two are currently being tested in HIV vaccines. If they don’t prove effective, vaccine developers can turn to one of the others, including the mutant VSV virus developed by Connor and colleagues.
"Right now, there’s no way of knowing which way of weakening the virus will make the best vaccine," Connor said.
In addition to its potential for vaccine development, the new finding about VSV also provides basic information about how the virus shuts downs a cell’s protein making-abilities and dominates the process.
"We always knew this happened, but the process was like a black box," said Connor. "Now, we know that the matrix protein is involved and is incredibly important in virus reproduction. This pushes forward our knowledge of how this virus is so effective at replicating."
Could the finding about matrix be used to weaken other types of viruses? The scientists aren’t sure, yet. "It’s a strong possibility that every virus will have an Achilles’ heel like this, where they need the function of a viral protein to make lots of virus," said Connor.
Karen Richardson | EurekAlert!
The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow
25.07.2017 | Rudolf-Virchow-Zentrum für Experimentelle Biomedizin der Universität Würzburg
Fungi that evolved to eat wood offer new biomass conversion tool
25.07.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
25.07.2017 | Life Sciences