Writing today (Oct. 28, 2013) in the journal Virology, a team led by UW-Madison biochemistry Professor Ann Palmenberg provides a meticulous topographical model of the capsid or protein shell of a cold virus that until 2006 was unknown to science.
Two faces of the common cold. The protein coat of the “missing link” cold virus, Rhinovirus C (right), has significant differences from the more observable and better studied Rhinovirus A. Those surface differences, revealed in a new three-dimensional model of Rhinovirus C from the UW–Madison lab of Ann C. Palmenberg, explain why no effective drugs have yet been devised to thwart the common cold.
Rhinovirus C is believed to be responsible for up to half of all childhood colds, and is a serious complicating factor for respiratory conditions such as asthma. Together with rhinoviruses A and B, the recently discovered virus is responsible for millions of illnesses yearly at an estimated annual cost of more than $40 billion in the United States alone.
The work is important because it sculpts a highly detailed structural model of the virus, showing that the protein shell of the virus is distinct from those of other strains of cold viruses.
“The question we sought to answer was how is it different and what can we do about it? We found it is indeed quite different,” says Palmenberg, noting that the new structure “explains most of the previous failures of drug trials against rhinovirus.”
The A and B families of cold virus, including their three-dimensional structures, have long been known to science as they can easily be grown and studied in the lab. Rhinovirus C, on the other hand, resists culturing and escaped notice entirely until 2006 when “gene chips” and advanced gene sequencing revealed the virus had long been lurking in human cells alongside the more observable A and B virus strains.
The new cold virus model was built “in silico,” drawing on advanced bioinformatics and the genetic sequences of 500 rhinovirus C genomes, which provided the three-dimensional coordinates of the viral capsid.
“It’s a very high-resolution model,” notes Palmenberg, whose group along with a team from the University of Maryland was the first to map the genomes for all known common cold virus strains in 2009. “We can see that it fits the data.”
With a structure in hand, the likelihood that drugs can be designed to effectively thwart colds may be in the offing. Drugs that work well against the A and B strains of cold virus have been developed and advanced to clinical trials. However, their efficacy was blunted because they were built to take advantage of the surface features of the better known strains, whose structures were resolved years ago through X-ray crystallography, a well-established technique for obtaining the structures of critical molecules.
Because all three cold virus strains all contribute to the common cold, drug candidates failed as the surface features that permit rhinovirus C to dock with host cells and evade the immune system were unknown and different from those of rhinovirus A and B.
Based on the new structure, “we predict you’ll have to make a C-specific drug,” explains Holly A. Basta, the lead author of the study and a graduate student working with Palmenberg in the UW-Madison Institute for Molecular Virology. “All the [existing] drugs we tested did not work.”
Antiviral drugs work by attaching to and modifying surface features of the virus. To be effective, a drug, like the right piece of a jigsaw puzzle, must fit and lock into the virus. The lack of a three-dimensional structure for rhinovirus C meant that the pharmaceutical companies designing cold-thwarting drugs were flying blind.
“It has a different receptor and a different receptor-binding platform,” Palmenberg explains. “Because it’s different, we have to go after it in a different way.”
In addition to Basta and Palmenberg, co-authors of the new studies include Jean-Yves Sgro, Shamaila Ashraf, Yury Bochkov and James E. Gern, all of UW-Madison.
—Terry Devitt, 608-262-8282, firstname.lastname@example.org
The new rhinovirus C studies were supported by the National Institutes of Health, grants AI17331 and U19 AI104317.
Terry Devitt | Newswise
3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Better equipped in the fight against lung cancer
16.05.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy