Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Protein's Tail May Be Flu Virus's Achilles Heel

Date:
December 10, 2006
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
New research from Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin (UT) has revealed a potential new target that drug makers can use to attack several strains of influenza, including those that cause bird flu. The research, published online December 6 by Nature, offers evidence of a potential drug target in a flu protein that plays a vital role in all strains of influenza A, including Hong Kong flu, Spanish flu and bird flu.

The atomic structure of influenza A virus nucleoprotein.
Credit: Jane Tao/Rice University

Striking new research from Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin (UT) has revealed a potential new target that drug makers can use to attack several strains of influenza, including those that cause bird flu as well as the common variety that infects millions each flu season.

The research, published online today by Nature, offers tantalizing evidence of a potential drug target in a flu protein called nucleoprotein, or NP. NP plays a vital role in all strains of influenza A, including Hong Kong flu, Spanish flu and bird flu.

The target is NP's long, flexible tail. Biochemists at Rice and UT found that even minor changes to the tail prevented NP from fulfilling one of its roles -- linking together into structural columns that the virus uses to transmit copies of itself.

"There is a small binding pocket for the tail loop of the protein that appears to be a promising target for a new class of antiviral drugs," said lead researcher Jane Tao, assistant professor in biochemistry and cell biology. "We know from previous genetic studies that this tail loop is almost identical across strains of influenza A, so drugs that target the tail have a high potential of being effective against multiple strains, including the H5N1 strains. Such new antivirals are especially needed at the moment as some H5N1 viruses are resistant to the flu drug Tamiflu."

Tao's findings are based on a painstaking series for experiments that revealed the atomic structure of NP. The protein's structure was discerned via X-ray crystallography, a method that allows scientists to discern the three-dimensional placement of atoms in a crystal based upon the diffraction patterns of X-rays that pass through it.

Tao said it was a challenge to growing NP protein crystals. The method used was the hanging drop vapor diffusion method, which involves suspending a liquid droplet of concentrated protein solution on the underside of a glass slide that is sealed inside a jar. As the liquid in the droplets evaporates, the proteins become supersaturated, and in some cases they form tiny crystals of a few hundred microns in size. Tao estimates that postdoctoral research associate Qiaozhen Ye prepared about 1,000 jars, with multiple droplets per jar, to get the 100 or so crystals that were needed for the experiments.

NP is one of only 11 proteins that are encoded by the influenza A genome. One of its main functions is structural. Once the virus has hijacked a host cell, and converted it into a virus-replicating factory, the NPs come together in small rings as building blocks. Many NP rings stack one atop the other in a slightly off-registered fashion, forming long helical-shaped columns. The virus's RNA genome is twisted around this column and shipped out to infect other cells.

"NP has about 500 amino acids and the tail loop contains about 30 of those," Tao said. "We found that a mutation in only one residue out of 30 was enough to prevent the NPs from coming together to form the building blocks for the columns, and without these columns the virus cannot make copies and infect other cells."

Tao said the research also provides clues about NP's role in signaling a cell to begin making copies of the viral genome, and Tao's group is continuing its work with co-author Robert Krug at the University of Texas at Austin to explore the protein's regulatory functions.

The research was funded by.the Welch Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Initiative of the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Protein's Tail May Be Flu Virus's Achilles Heel." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 December 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061207160604.htm>.
Rice University. (2006, December 10). Protein's Tail May Be Flu Virus's Achilles Heel. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061207160604.htm
Rice University. "Protein's Tail May Be Flu Virus's Achilles Heel." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061207160604.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) Sierra Leone is locked down as aid workers and volunteers look for new cases of Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) A study suggest antidepressants can kick in much sooner than previously thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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