Scientists at Northwestern University have determined the molecular structure of a viral protein, the parainfluenza virus 5 fusion (F) protein. The parainfluenza virus 5 is part of a family of viruses (paramyxoviruses) that causes everything from pneumonia, croup and bronchiolitis to cold-like illness and is responsible for many hospitalizations and deaths each year. The results will be published Jan. 5 by the journal Nature.
Details of the proteins structure in its metastable state -- the state of the protein on the virus surface responsible for infecting cells -- has significant implications for developing improved protein-based vaccines, designing novel anti-viral agents and understanding the entry mechanisms of other viruses. Knowing the structure of the F protein will aid understanding of all members of the paramyxovirus family, which are among the most significant human and animal pathogens, causing both respiratory and systemic disease.
"The development of antiviral drugs is helped by knowledge of the structure, shape and mechanism of the target molecules, which is what we can now provide for the F protein," said Theodore S. Jardetzky, professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology, who co-led the study. "Knowing how the virus gets into the cell will allow us to better inhibit this key part of the viral life cycle."
Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
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