Bless You

June 17, 1998

Have Cold Bashers Dealt The Virus A Deadly Blow?

Drugs can leave a virus breathless. Researchers in the US have found that parts of the protein shell of the common cold virus flap open in a motion they call "breathing"--and compounds that stop viruses infecting cells can stifle this flapping. The discovery could lead to rapid screening methods for antiviral drugs.

A virus only shows real signs of life after it has infected a cell. Once inside, the invader sheds its protective protein coat, releases its genetic material and hijacks the cell's resources to replicate itself. But according to the textbooks, viruses shut down between infections, becoming as inanimate as a stone.

But now Thomas Smith, a biochemist at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, says that this is not the full story. Smith studies the rhinovirus which causes the common cold. "We know that proteins move in solution," he says. "But it's hard for most people to visualise the virus as dynamic, so they don't."

Until now, many scientists were also convinced that the fluctuations in viral shape that happened outside the cell were probably minor and of little importance. So when Smith teamed up with chemist Gary Siuzdak and his colleagues at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, to probe the motions of the virus coat, the best he hoped for was to reveal a tiny twitching. "Even that, I thought, might be blue-sky thinking," he says. The researchers treated the virus with an enzyme that chops up proteins. They reasoned that if the breathing effect was only small, exposing just the outermost atoms of the virus's coat, then the first wounds the enzyme inflicted on the virus should be in these layers.

In most cases, this turned out to be true. But to the team's surprise, one protein, called VP4, was also an early victim-even though previous studies showed that it was usually buried inside the virus, 25 atom lengths from the surface. "That's a lot of breathing," says Smith. "You think: how the devil could that get out?"

New Scientist issue 20th June 1998, page 19

Author: Philip Cohen

PLEASE MENTION NEW SCIENTIST AS THE SOURCE OF THIS ARTICLE
-end-


New Scientist

Related Proteins Articles from Brightsurf:

New understanding of how proteins operate
A ground-breaking discovery by Centenary Institute scientists has provided new understanding as to the nature of proteins and how they exist and operate in the human body.

Finding a handle to bag the right proteins
A method that lights up tags attached to selected proteins can help to purify the proteins from a mixed protein pool.

Designing vaccines from artificial proteins
EPFL scientists have developed a new computational approach to create artificial proteins, which showed promising results in vivo as functional vaccines.

New method to monitor Alzheimer's proteins
IBS-CINAP research team has reported a new method to identify the aggregation state of amyloid beta (Aβ) proteins in solution.

Composing new proteins with artificial intelligence
Scientists have long studied how to improve proteins or design new ones.

Hero proteins are here to save other proteins
Researchers at the University of Tokyo have discovered a new group of proteins, remarkable for their unusual shape and abilities to protect against protein clumps associated with neurodegenerative diseases in lab experiments.

Designer proteins
David Baker, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Washington to speak at the AAAS 2020 session, 'Synthetic Biology: Digital Design of Living Systems.' Prof.

Gone fishin' -- for proteins
Casting lines into human cells to snag proteins, a team of Montreal researchers has solved a 20-year-old mystery of cell biology.

Coupled proteins
Researchers from Heidelberg University and Sendai University in Japan used new biotechnological methods to study how human cells react to and further process external signals.

Understanding the power of honey through its proteins
Honey is a culinary staple that can be found in kitchens around the world.

Read More: Proteins News and Proteins Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.