Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Find Hidden Piece Of Influenza Virus

Date:
December 4, 2001
Source:
NIH/National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases
Summary:
For nearly 20 years, scientists have labored under the assumption that the influenza virus comprises only 10 protein molecules that form its structure and carry out its activities. However, this week in Nature Medicine researchers report finding a new, "hidden" influenza virus protein. This protein may kill immune system cells that fight the virus, thereby contributing to the virus's potency, the researchers say.

For nearly 20 years, scientists have labored under the assumption that the influenza virus comprises only 10 protein molecules that form its structure and carry out its activities. However, this week in Nature Medicine researchers report finding a new, "hidden" influenza virus protein. This protein may kill immune system cells that fight the virus, thereby contributing to the virus's potency, the researchers say.

Related Articles


"We believe this is a groundbreaking finding, although we're not yet sure how deep the ground is," says Jonathan Yewdell, M.D., Ph.D., a viral immunologist who led a team of scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). "This might be the 'grand canyon' of the flu, in terms of understanding this virus's virulence, or perhaps only a narrow side ravine."

The scientists turned up this new protein by accident, while sifting through bits and pieces of "junk" peptides. Junk peptides are short protein molecules the virus creates once it infects a cell and begins replicating. They form when the process that translates viral genes into proteins goes awry, Dr. Yewdell explains. In other words, junk peptides result from genetic mistakes.

"We weren't looking for new proteins at all. We assumed the 10 known influenza proteins were all there were," Dr. Yewdell says. "We just wanted to know if immune system cells had learned to recognize any of these junk peptides. We thought that was an interesting question."

The immune system cells of mice, in fact, did recognize one of the peptides. When the scientists examined the gene encoding this peptide more closely, they noticed it was "suspiciously long" for mere junk. Wondering if this molecule might be a bona fide protein, Dr. Yewdell's team decided to see how much of it was created in cells infected with the flu virus. If it were junk, there should be only a few random copies of the peptide here and there. If it were a protein, large quantities of the molecule should be present. Dr. Yewdell used a technique called immunofluorescence, which makes the molecule glow green, to show how much of it infected cells contained.

"The cells we looked at just lit up," Dr. Yewdell says. "We saw large amounts of this molecule in the mitochondria of flu infected cells, and we knew it was a real protein. It was one of those 'eureka' moments of discovery you live for in science. The junk turned out to be a jewel."

It turns out that this protein is created when ribosomes, the cellular machines that translate genes into proteins, begin reading the influenza gene called PB-1 in what was previously believed to be the wrong location. "One could say that lurking within the PB-1 gene is an overlapping gene that codes for this protein," explains Dr. Yewdell. "This alternate translation may have started out as a mistake, but the protein it produced was useful, so through evolution the gene was maintained and improved."

Tests showed the protein is toxic to human cells, especially immune system cells. "Next, we plan to learn more about the functions of this protein and how it accomplishes its tasks," Dr. Yewdell says. The team also wants to know whether this protein might have contributed to the virulence of the flu viruses that caused the Asian flu of 1957, the Hong Kong flu of 1968, and especially the Spanish flu of 1918, which killed 20 million people worldwide.

"Like many scientific discoveries, this one happened serendipitously, and it confirms the importance of supporting basic research on infectious diseases," concludes Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director. "When you have good researchers exploring interesting questions, they are bound to turn up crucial information."

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

Reference:W Chen et al. A novel influenza A virus mitochondrial protein that induces cell death. Nature Medicine 17(12):1306-12 (2001).

Press releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NIH/National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NIH/National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases. "Scientists Find Hidden Piece Of Influenza Virus." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011203061054.htm>.
NIH/National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases. (2001, December 4). Scientists Find Hidden Piece Of Influenza Virus. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011203061054.htm
NIH/National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases. "Scientists Find Hidden Piece Of Influenza Virus." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011203061054.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Rural India's Low-Cost Sanitary Pad Revolution

Rural India's Low-Cost Sanitary Pad Revolution

AFP (Nov. 28, 2014) — One man hopes his invention -– a machine that produces cheap sanitary pads –- will help empower Indian women. Duration: 01:51 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

AFP (Nov. 28, 2014) — In Africa's only biosafety level 4 laboratory, scientists have been carrying out experiments on bats to understand how virus like Ebola are being transmitted, and how some of them resist to it. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO Says Male Ebola Survivors Should Abstain From Sex

WHO Says Male Ebola Survivors Should Abstain From Sex

Newsy (Nov. 28, 2014) — WHO cites four studies that say Ebola can still be detected in semen up to 82 days after the onset of symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

AFP (Nov. 27, 2014) — The Ebola epidemic sweeping Sierra Leone is having a profound effect on the country's children, many of whom have been left without any family members to support them. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins