Scientists map critical portion of flu enzyme

Scientists recently mapped the three-dimensional structure of a portion of the influenza virus that is critical in the replication process.

Experts say that the knowledge could potentially lead to a new class of influenza drugs, according to

The researchers, a team from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Grenoble, France, established the structure of part of the flu virus RNA polymerase, specifically on the enzyme's endonuclease. The endonuclease is responsible for the unique mechanism that allows a virus to fool the host cell into producing viral proteins.

The team, led by Stephen Cusack, the director of EMBL Grenoble, used high intensity X-rays to analyze endonuclease crystals from the 2009 pandemic influenza strain. They were able to determine the 3D atomic structure of the enzyme and later visualize how molecule inhibitors could bind to and block its active sites.

If the active site of the enzyme can be blocked by an inhibitor, the enzyme would cease to function, preventing the virus from replicating.

"Based on this detailed structural information we can now design new synthetic chemicals which bind even more tightly to the endonuclease active site and thus will potentially be more potent inhibitors of influenza virus replication," Stephen Cusack said, reports.