Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Getting wise to the influenza virus’ tricks

05.05.2008
A high-resolution image of an influenza virus protein opens the way to design new anti-viral drugs

Influenza is currently a grave concern for governments and health organisations around the world. The worry is the potential for highly virulent bird flu strains, such as H5N1, to develop the ability to infect humans easily. New drugs and vaccines to halt the spread of the virus are badly needed.

Now one of the tactics used by influenza virus to take over the machinery of infected cells has been laid bare by structural biologists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the joint Unit of Virus Host-Cell Interaction of EMBL, the University Joseph Fourier and National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), in Grenoble, France. In the current issue of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology they publish a high-resolution image of a key protein domain whose function is to allow the virus to multiply by hijacking the host cell protein production machinery. The findings open the way for the design of new drugs to combat future influenza pandemics.

Upon infection the influenza virus starts multiplying in the cells of its host. One protein that is crucial in this process is the viral polymerase - the enzyme that copies its genetic material and helps to produce more viruses. One component of the polymerase, called PB2, plays a key role in stealing an important tag from host cell RNA molecules to direct the protein production machinery towards the synthesis of viral proteins. Researchers of the groups of Stephen Cusack and Darren Hart at EMBL Grenoble have identified the PB2 domain responsible for binding the tag, produced crystals of it and examined them with the powerful X-ray beams of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF).

... more about:
»Cap »EMBL »Host »Influenza »PB2 »RNA »Viral »mRNA

“Viruses are masters of cunning when it comes to hijacking the normal functioning of the host cell. The influenza virus steals a password from host messenger RNAs, molecules that carry the instructions for protein production, and uses it to gain access to the cell’s protein-making machinery for its own purposes,” says Cusack.

The password is a short extra piece of RNA, a modified RNA base called a ‘cap’, which must be present at the beginning of all messenger RNAs (mRNAs) to direct the cell's protein-synthesis machinery to the starting point. The viral polymerase binds to host cell mRNA via its cap, cuts the cap off and adds it to the beginning of its own mRNA – a process known as ‘cap snatching’. The capped viral mRNA can then be recognised by the host cell machinery allowing viral proteins to be made, at the expense of host cell proteins.

The atomic resolution image the EMBL scientists generated of a PB2 domain bound to a cap reveals for the first time the individual amino acids responsible for recognising this special structure. The central interaction is a sandwich with two PB2 amino acids stacking either side of the cap. Whilst this recognition mechanism is similar to other cap-binding proteins, its structural details are distinct. Collaborators at the Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia in Madrid showed that disruption of the PB2 cap-binding site prevents the influenza virus from replicating.

“These findings suggest that the PB2 cap-binding site is a very promising target for anti-influenza drugs,” Hart says. “Our new structural insights will help us design mimics of the cap that would inhibit viral replication and hence reduce the spread of virus and the severity of the infection.”

Anna-Lynn Wegener | EMBL
Further information:
http://www.embl.de

Further reports about: Cap EMBL Host Influenza PB2 RNA Viral mRNA

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The Secret of the Rock Drawings
24.05.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

nachricht Chemical juggling with three particles
24.05.2019 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New system by TU Graz automatically recognises pedestrians’ intent to cross the road

27.05.2019 | Information Technology

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>