Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How Poxviruses Such As Smallpox Evade The Immune System

Date:
February 1, 2008
Source:
Saint Louis University
Summary:
Scientists have uncovered important new information about a key protein that allows viruses such as smallpox to replicate and wreak havoc on the immune system. The findings further our understanding of how the pox family of viruses work to subvert the immune system, the researchers say. They also believe their work could one day be used to develop new drugs to combat a variety of inflammatory and immunological disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and some forms of heart disease.

Scientists at Saint Louis University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have uncovered important new information about a key protein that allows viruses such as smallpox to replicate and wreak havoc on the immune system.

The findings further our understanding of how the pox family of viruses work to subvert the immune system, the researchers say. They also believe their work could one day be used to develop new drugs to combat a variety of inflammatory and immunological disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and some forms of heart disease.

The paper* describes the structure and actions of a powerful substance called interferon-gamma binding protein, which is notorious for the role it plays in helping the poxviruses to replicate. The research explores the interferon-gamma binding protein found in the mousepox virus -- one of the family of viruses that also includes smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox.

"Cracking open and describing the structure and actions of interferon-gamma binding protein is incredibly exciting, given the important role this substance plays in subverting the immune system," said Mark Buller, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine and one of the study's authors. "This breakthrough is something that many others have tried and failed to achieve."

Normally when a virus enters the bloodstream, the immune system responds by producing a substance called interferon-gamma, which assists the development of the immune response that's responsible for ridding the body of the virus.

Poxviruses, however, all come encoded with a potent weapon to evade the immune system: interferon-gamma binding protein. As its name implies, the protein literally binds to interferon-gamma and immobilizes it, preventing it from marshalling the immune system's defenses. The poxvirus is then able to replicate and cause immense damage.

The research describes how interferon-gamma binding protein looks and behaves on the molecular level during this process, something not previously understood.

"The poxviruses are able to evade the immune system very skillfully," Buller said, "so we wanted to identify exactly how these viruses work -- what makes them so effective and efficient."

Buller added that the findings have great potential for use in developing drugs that target immunological and inflammatory disorders, including a type of heart disease called atherosclerosis (sometimes referred to as hardening of the arteries), inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) and rheumatoid arthritis.

Of all the poxviruses, smallpox in particular has played a gruesome role in human history. The virus is estimated to have caused between 300 million and 500 million deaths in the 20th century alone. Though smallpox was declared officially eradicated in 1979, many experts fear that clandestine samples of the virus may have survived -- thus making it a major bioterrorism concern.

"The damage that the smallpox virus has done to mankind is horrific and enormous, which is why we think it's so important to understand more about the poxviruses and how they operate," Buller said. "The more knowledge we have, the better we should be able to cope with other major viruses and diseases in the future."

Buller pointed to co-author Tony Nuara as being critical to the team's success in understanding more about interferon-gamma binding protein. Nuara, now a fourth-year student at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, was working on his Ph.D. in molecular microbiology when taking part in the research effort.

"Without Tony, this research wouldn't have happened," Buller said. "He solved huge numbers of problems and figured out some answers to puzzling questions that previously had no answer."

Mark R. Walter, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the paper's senior author, also noted the efforts of co-authors Sung Il Yoon, Ph.D., Brandi C. Jones, Naomi J. Logsdon and Leigh J. Walter, all of whose work contributed to determining the three-dimensional structure of the binding protein.

"The structure provides a visual blueprint to guide our future studies on interferon-gamma binding protein, which one day may be used to prevent inflammatory disease," Mark Walter said. "This is clearly a notable achievement."

*The research has been published in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Jill M. Schriewer of Saint Louis University was also a co-author of the study.

The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the UAB Center for Emerging Infections and Emergency Preparedness, and the American Heart Association.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Saint Louis University. "How Poxviruses Such As Smallpox Evade The Immune System." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080131122956.htm>.
Saint Louis University. (2008, February 1). How Poxviruses Such As Smallpox Evade The Immune System. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080131122956.htm
Saint Louis University. "How Poxviruses Such As Smallpox Evade The Immune System." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080131122956.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 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:
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