THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Scientists learn how SARS virus takes over cells

Researchers at the University of California - Irvine recently uncovered components of the SARS coronavirus that enable the virus to take over host cells and replicate, according to a study published in mBio.

Megan Angelini, a graduate student in Michael Buchmeier's laboratory at UC Irvine's Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, and her colleagues identified three proteins in the SARS coronavirus with the ability to hijack a host cell's internal membranes. The proteins, nsp3, nsp4 and nsp6, are able to program the host cell to make more viruses.

The SARS coronavirus caused a major outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2002-2003. The insight into how the virus infects host cells could result in the development of effective therapies against human coronavirus infections and other illnesses as well.

"Understanding how the virus uses the host cell to reproduce itself could lead to potential therapies for these kinds of pathogens," Buchmeier, the deputy director of the Pacific Southwest Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases at UC Irvine, said.

While most infections caused by coronaviruses are mild in humans, the SARS outbreak and the emergence last fall of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus demonstrate the ability of the viruses to potentially infect millions of people worldwide.