Now researchers from the Institut de Virologie Moléculaire et Structurale (IVMS) and the Outstation of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Grenoble have obtained a detailed structural picture of a protein that allows the rabies virus to withstand the human immune response and survive and replicate in our cells. The study that is published in this week’s online edition of Science suggests new potential drug targets in rabies and sheds light on how similar approaches can help fighting other viral diseases.
When the rabies virus enters a human cell through the membrane, the RNA molecule that carries its genes is transported into the centre of the cell. Here it redirects the cellular machinery of the host to produce many new copies of the virus that go on to infect more cells. One molecule that is crucial in this process is a viral protein called nucleoprotein. The protein ensures that on its way through the cell the virus RNA is not destroyed by the immune response of the host.
“Nucleoprotein is vital for the rabies virus,” says Rob Ruigrok, Head of the IVMS. “It is one of the few proteins that the virus brings into the host cell and it wraps around the RNA like a protection shield. Without this shield the RNA would be degraded by the enzymes of the human immune system that try to eliminate the invader.”
To investigate how exactly this protection shield works, Aurélie Albertini from Ruigrok’s team obtained crystals of nucleoprotein bound to RNA. Examining the crystals with high-intensity X-ray sources at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Amy Wernimont from Winfried Weissenhorn’s group at EMBL Grenoble produced a high-resolution image of the protein.
“Nucleoprotein acts like a clamp,” says Weissenhorn. “It consists of two domains that like two jaws clasp around the RNA strand. Many nucleoproteins bind side-by-side along the length of an RNA molecule and make it inaccessible for degrading enzymes but also for the machinery needed to replicate the virus. This means that the protection shield must be flexible and able to distinguish between different types of enzymes trying to gain access.”The detailed structural picture suggests that upon a signal a part of the protein located between the two main domains might act as a hinge that moves the upper jaw out of the way when time for replication has come.
“This dynamic mechanism makes nucleoproteins an excellent drug target,” says Ruigrok, “Small agents that bind to the protein in such a way to block its flexibility and keep it in the closed state, would prevent replication of the virus and would stop it from spreading.”
Rabies virus shares this protection strategy with other viruses of its class; in Ebola, measles and Borna virus similar complexes of RNA and nucleoproteins have been found.
“This means that our results do not only have implications for the design of new drugs against rabies, but they suggest new therapeutic approaches in a variety of diseases, some of which are much more threatening than rabies. On a different note, the conservation of the nucleoprotein system also leaves room for evolutionary speculations about common ancestors and primordial infectious units of RNA viruses,” Weissenhorn concludes.
Anna-Lynn Wegener | alfa
Funding of Collaborative Research Center developing nanomaterials for cancer immunotherapy extended
28.06.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Zeolite catalysts pave the road to decentral chemical processes Confined space increases reactivity
28.06.2017 | Technische Universität München
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine