Purdue receives $6 million to study West Nile virus family

October 20, 1999

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Structural biologists at Purdue University have received a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study a family of viruses that includes the West Nile virus.

The studies may help determine ways to combat the West Nile-like virus that has caused numerous illnesses and at least five deaths in the New York region.

The researchers will examine the viruses in atomic detail to determine how they assemble their genetic material and interact with human cells to cause infection. The results may prove useful in developing drugs that prevent infection by similar viral pathogens, said Richard J. Kuhn, associate professor of biological sciences.

"Very little is known structurally about these viruses," Kuhn said. "What we can determine about one can be extrapolated to help us understand the structure of other viruses in the family, such as West Nile and West Nile-like viruses."

The five-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will allow the group to determine the three-dimensional structure of several types of viruses, including those in the Flavivirus family, a group of RNA viruses that includes the yellow fever virus, hepatitis C virus and the West Nile virus. The studies at Purdue will focus on yellow fever virus and hepatitis C virus.

The Purdue group also will study the structure and assembly in a related family of viruses called Togaviruses by examining rubella virus, which causes German measles, and will also analyze Rous Sarcoma virus, human papilloma virus, and several important plant viruses.

"Historically, these viruses have been very difficult to study because they are dangerous and difficult to grow in cell cultures," Kuhn said. "Also, systems to manipulate them have not been available. We can now examine the properties of these viruses in a number of different systems using only portions of the virus, thereby eliminating the need for live viruses in the study."

The researchers will use a combination of X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance, cryo-electron microscopy and image reconstruction procedures to obtain highly magnified images and three-dimensional structures of the viruses. This approach allows researchers to combine low-resolution images obtained from cryo-electron microscopy with high-resolution images from X-ray studies to obtain images that show the precise position of each atom in the virus. The group at Purdue was among the first to combine these techniques.

The researchers also will employ molecular biology and biochemistry techniques to gain insights into the chemical and biological activity that occurs when the virus infects a human cell, Kuhn said.

The grant supports six different laboratories at Purdue. Michael Rossmann, the Hanley Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, is principal investigator on the grant. Rossmann is internationally recognized for his pioneering work in modeling the structure of viruses. In 1985, his group became the first to solve the structure of an animal virus when it mapped the three-dimensional structure of a common cold virus.

Co-principal investigators are Tim Baker, professor of biological sciences; Alan Friedman, assistant professor of biological sciences; Kuhn; Carol Post, associate professor of medicinal chemistry; and Thomas Smith, professor of biological sciences.

Sources: Richard J. Kuhn, (765) 494-1164,
rjkuhn@bragg.bio.purdue.edu

Michael Rossmann, (765) 494-4911,
b4p@cc.purdue.edu

Writer: Susan Gaidos, (765) 494-2081; susan_gaidos@uns.purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@uns.purdue.edu

Related Web site:
Structural Virology at Purdue




*To the Purdue News and Photos Page

Purdue University

Related West Nile Virus Articles from Brightsurf:

Rising temperatures could shift US West Nile virus transmission
West Nile virus spreads most efficiently in the US at temperatures between 24-25 degrees Celsius (75.2-77 degrees Fahrenheit), a new study published today in eLife shows.

West Nile virus triggers brain inflammation by inhibiting protein degradation
West Nile virus (WNV) inhibits autophagy -- an essential system that digests or removes cellular constituents such as proteins -- to induce the aggregation of proteins in infected cells, triggering cell death and brain inflammation (encephalitis), according to Hokkaido University researchers.

WSU study shows insulin can increase mosquitoes' immunity to West Nile virus
A discovery by a Washington State University-led research team has the potential to inhibit the spread of West Nile virus as well as Zika and dengue viruses.

Critical protein that could unlock West Nile/Zika virus treatments identified
A team of Georgia State scientists has identified a protein that is critical in controlling replication of West Nile and Zika viruses -- and could be important for developing therapies to prevent and treat those viruses.

West Nile virus in the New World: Reflections on 20 years in pursuit of an elusive foe
Though eradication of West Nile virus remains beyond our capability, the body of knowledge built since its arrival in the Americas in 1999 is now powering efforts to minimize its impact and prepare for the invasion of other mosquito-borne diseases.

Light pollution may be increasing West Nile virus spillover from wild birds
House sparrows infected with West Nile virus (WNV) that live in light polluted conditions remain infectious for two days longer than those who do not, increasing the potential for a WNV outbreak by about 41%.

Mount Sinai researchers find significant delays in West Nile virus reporting
Mount Sinai researchers found significant delays in reporting human cases of West Nile virus, hampering real-time forecasting of the potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease, according to a study in the JAMA Network Open in April.

Insecticide resistance genes affect vector competence for West Nile virus
In a context of overuse of insecticides, which leads to the selection of resistant mosquitoes, it is already known that this resistance to insecticides affects interactions between mosquitoes and the pathogens they transmit.

Where will the world's next Zika, West Nile or Dengue virus come from?
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have identified wildlife species that are the most likely to host flaviviruses such as Zika, West Nile, dengue and yellow fever.

Vanderbilt discovery could neutralize West Nile virus
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and colleagues have isolated a human monoclonal antibody that can 'neutralize' the West Nile virus and potentially prevent a leading cause of viral encephalitis (brain inflammation) in the United States.

Read More: West Nile Virus News and West Nile Virus 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.