Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Rutgers cell biologist pinpoints how RNA viruses copy themselves

RNA viruses hijack cellular enzyme to create viral replication factories on cell membranes

Nihal Altan-Bonnet, assistant professor of cell biology, Rutgers University in Newark, and her research team have made a significant new discovery about RNA (Ribonucleic acid) viruses and how they replicate themselves.

Certain RNA viruses – Poliovirus, Hepatitis C virus and Coxsackievirus – and possibly many other families of viruses copy themselves by seizing an enzyme from their host cell to create replication factories enriched in a specific lipid, explains Altan-Bonnet. Minus that lipid – phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate (Pl4P) – these RNA viruses are not able to synthesize their viral RNA and replicate. The key structural components on cell membranes, lipids often serve as signaling molecules and docking sites for proteins.

Viral replication is the process by which virus particles make new copies of themselves within a host cell. Those copies then can go on to infect other cells. An RNA virus is a virus that has RNA, rather than DNA, as its genetic material. Many human pathogens are RNA viruses, including SARS virus, West Nile virus, HIV, and the ones Altan-Bonnet has been studying.

As reported in the May 28, 2010 issue of Cell, Altan-Bonnet and her co-researchers for the first time have uncovered that certain RNA viruses take control of a cellular enzyme to design a replication compartment on the cell's membrane filled with PI4P lipids. Those lipids, in turn, allow the RNA viruses to attract and stimulate the enzymes they need for replication. In uninfected cells, the levels of PI4P lipids are kept low, but in virally infected cells those levels increase dramatically. The findings by Altan-Bonnet and her colleagues not only open several possibilities for preventing the spread of various viral infections, but also may help to shed new light on the regulation of RNA synthesis at the cellular level and potentially on how some cancers develop.

"The goal of the virus is to replicate itself," notes Altan-Bonnet. "For its replication machines to work, the virus needs to create an ideal lipid environment which it does by hijacking a key enzyme from its host cell."

Altan-Bonnet and her team also were able to identify the viral protein (the so-called 3A protein in Poliovirus and Coxsackievirus infections) that captures and recruits the cellular enzyme (phosphatidylinositol-4-kinase III beta). Additionally, her lab was able to impede the replication process by administering a drug that blocked the activity of the cellular enzyme once it had been hijacked. Drug therapies to prevent viral replication potentially also could be targeted to prevent the hijacking of the enzyme.

Once that enzyme is hijacked, cells are prevented from normally operating their secretory pathway, the process by which they move proteins to the outside of the cell. In many cases, the impeding of that process can result in the slow death of the cell, leading to such problems as cardiac and vascular complications in those infected with the Coxsackievirus and neurological damage in those with Poliovirus.

Utilizing their recent findings, Altan-Bonnet and her team now plan to investigate PI4P dependence in other viruses as well as the role other lipids may play in different virus families. For example, the SARS virus also requires a lipid-rich environment for its replication, so her lab now is working with SARS researchers on determining what lipid is necessary for that virus's replication. In addition, they will be examining the role of lipids in regulating RNA synthesis in cells, potentially providing new insight into some of the cellular mutations that occur in cancer.

"Given that a lot of what we know about cellular processes historically comes from the study of viruses, our studies may provide insight into the novel roles lipids play in regulating the expression of genetic material in cells," notes Altan-Bonnet.

Altan-Bonnet's research into RNA replication is supported with grants from the National Science Foundation and the Busch Foundation. To learn more about Altan-Bonnet's research, visit

Helen Paxton | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>