Striking new research from Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin (UT) has revealed a potential new target that drug makers can use to attack several strains of influenza, including those that cause bird flu as well as the common variety that infects millions each flu season.
"There is a small binding pocket for the tail loop of the protein that appears to be a promising target for a new class of antiviral drugs," said lead researcher Jane Tao, assistant professor in biochemistry and cell biology. "We know from previous genetic studies that this tail loop is almost identical across strains of influenza A, so drugs that target the tail have a high potential of being effective against multiple strains, including the H5N1 strains. Such new antivirals are especially needed at the moment as some H5N1 viruses are resistant to the flu drug Tamiflu."
Tao's findings are based on a painstaking series for experiments that revealed the atomic structure of NP. The protein's structure was discerned via X-ray crystallography, a method that allows scientists to discern the three-dimensional placement of atoms in a crystal based upon the diffraction patterns of X-rays that pass through it.
Tao said it was a challenge to growing NP protein crystals. The method used was the hanging drop vapor diffusion method, which involves suspending a liquid droplet of concentrated protein solution on the underside of a glass slide that is sealed inside a jar. As the liquid in the droplets evaporates, the proteins become supersaturated, and in some cases they form tiny crystals of a few hundred microns in size. Tao estimates that postdoctoral research associate Qiaozhen Ye prepared about 1,000 jars, with multiple droplets per jar, to get the 100 or so crystals that were needed for the experiments.
NP is one of only 11 proteins that are encoded by the influenza A genome. One of its main functions is structural. Once the virus has hijacked a host cell, and converted it into a virus-replicating factory, the NPs come together in small rings as building blocks. Many NP rings stack one atop the other in a slightly off-registered fashion, forming long helical-shaped columns. The virus's RNA genome is twisted around this column and shipped out to infect other cells.
"NP has about 500 amino acids and the tail loop contains about 30 of those," Tao said. "We found that a mutation in only one residue out of 30 was enough to prevent the NPs from coming together to form the building blocks for the columns, and without these columns the virus cannot make copies and infect other cells."
Tao said the research also provides clues about NP's role in signaling a cell to begin making copies of the viral genome, and Tao's group is continuing its work with co-author Robert Krug at the University of Texas at Austin to explore the protein's regulatory functions.
The research was funded by.the Welch Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Initiative of the National Science Foundation.
Jade Boyd | EurekAlert!
A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences