Biomedical researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) have taken an important early step toward developing effective drug therapies against Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (VEE) virus, a potential bioterrorist weapon. Their achievement: determining the precise structure of a protein that the virus requires for replication.
Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne VEE virus periodically ravage Central and South America, infecting tens of thousands of people and killing hundreds of thousands of horses, donkeys and mules. Experts also fear VEE's potential as a weapon of bioterrorism because the virus was developed into a biological weapon during the Cold War by both the United States and the Soviet Union. Analysts fret that terrorists could do likewise.
The protein the scientists focused on is known as the nsP2 protease. It acts like a pair of molecular scissors, chopping another complex of VEE proteins into specific smaller protein molecules that work together to transform living cells into VEE virus factories. "This protein is crucial to VEE virus replication, and we want to create drugs that will turn off such proteins," said Stanley W. Watowich, senior author of a paper on the research to be published in the September 12 issue of the journal Structure. The UTMB associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology added, "Now that we know what this protease looks like, we can begin a systematic computer-based search for compounds that will inhibit its activity, stop the virus from multiplying in infected individuals, and prevent VEE outbreaks from spreading."
VEE protease inhibitors would function much like the protease inhibitors taken by people infected with HIV, Watowich said, but since human and equine immune systems could quickly overwhelm VEE viruses that were unable to replicate, infections would be eliminated instead of merely controlled, and permanent use of the medication would be unnecessary. (Those infected would also acquire immunity to VEE, just as if they had been vaccinated with a weakened form of the virus.)
Potential therapeutic compounds could be available for pre-clinical studies within two years, according to Watowich, thanks to collaborations with powerful computer centers at the University of Texas at Austin and IBM that will be able to take the UTMB protease structure and sift through "libraries" of millions of molecules, looking for those with the right structural and chemical characteristics to keep the "scissors" from closing.
To produce a detailed enough structure to begin this drug search, lead author and Watowich lab postdoctoral fellow Andrew Russo used X-ray crystallography, in which X-rays are used to scan crystallized protein samples, working both with equipment at UTMB and the high power synchrotron radiation source at Louisiana State University's Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices in Baton Rouge. "It took about a year of hard work by Andrew, but it was worth it," Watowich said. "In the future when we're dealing with one of these periodic VEE outbreaks or a bioterrorist attack, it will be a very good thing if we have an effective medicine in the cabinet ready to use."
Jim Kelly | EurekAlert!
Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY
NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.07.2018 | Information Technology
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences