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New Ebola study points to potential drug target

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Posted April 10, 2015
This news or article is intended for readers with certain scientific or professional knowledge in the field.

Opening the door to potential treatments for the deadly Ebola virus, scientists have found that a protein made by the virus plays a role similar to that of a coat-check attendant.

A protein — shown in red, white and blue — typically coats the genome of the Ebola virus, providing protection from enzymes that can destroy the virus’s genetic material. This protein coat is removed to allow the virus to replicate its genome in infected cells. New research led by Washington University School of Medicine shows that interfering with the removal and the return of the protein coat to the viral genome can kill the Ebola virus, a discovery that opens the door to more effective treatments. Image credit: Amarasinghe Lab

A protein — shown in red, white and blue — typically coats the genome of the Ebola virus, providing protection from enzymes that can destroy the virus’s genetic material. This protein coat is removed to allow the virus to replicate its genome in infected cells. New research led by Washington University School of Medicine shows that interfering with the removal and the return of the protein coat to the viral genome can kill the Ebola virus, a discovery that opens the door to more effective treatments. Image credit: Amarasinghe Lab

The protein removes a protective coat from the virus’s genetic material, exposing the viral genome so that it can be copied, and then returns the coat, according to a new study led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The research, in cell cultures, showed that interfering with this process kills the virus.

As part of the study, the researchers introduced rogue coat-check attendants into Ebola-infected cells. These rogue attendants carried a short chain of amino acids that forms the part of the protein that removes the coat. But they lacked the ability to return the coat, disrupting the emergence of newly created viruses from infected cells. Consequently, the virus did not survive.

“This coat-check protein, known as VP35, has a great deal of potential as a new target for Ebola treatments,” said senior author Gaya Amarasinghe, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and immunology at the School of Medicine. “If we can block this process, we can stop Ebola infection by blocking viral replication.”

The study appears April 9 in Cell Reports.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis

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