SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2016

Harvard team identifies protien required for viral replication

Researchers have revealed the protein structure of VSV. | Courtesy of mit.edu
Harvard Medical School (HMS) said Thursday that researchers recently identified the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) protein structure that the virus needs in order to multiply and take over the body.

The most deathly viruses, such as rabies, Ebola, respiratory syncytial virus, measles, mumps, Marburg virus, and VSV are part of a group of RNA viruses that use a single method for replication.

Viruses require a host cell in order to copy the viral genetic information. Viruses use replication components that manipulate the host cell’s replication machinery for viral purposes.

Using electron cryomicroscopy, which freezes samples in images in order decrease electron radiation damage, the researchers identified the VSV protein structure at an atomic level.

VSV mainly occurs in livestock, but in most cases it does not affect humans. Scientists have used VSV as a model to determine which proteins the virus needs to replicate and take over a body.

"We now have a better understanding of how RNA synthesis works for these viruses," HMS Professor of Microbiology and Immunobiology Sean Whelan said. Whelan was senior author of the paper. "I think if you were trying to develop a viral-specific target to block the replication of one of these viruses, having the structure of the polymerase protein would help. 

"The Ebola protein will look the same, the rabies protein will look the same, the other L proteins will look the same," Whelan said. "There will be some subtle differences reflecting the precise nature of amino acids, but we know that they're functionally and structurally the same. 

"It begins to suggest ways that we can perhaps pull apart other proteins that have not been so easy to express, such as the L protein in Ebola," Whelan said. "It doesn't mean we're going to have inhibitors immediately, but this is an important step, I think, towards that longer-term goal."

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Harvard Medical School 25 Shattuck St Boston, MA 02115

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