Mapping the structure of a viral enzyme
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The structure of a key component of two viruses that cause life-threatening respiratory diseases has been determined, which could lead to the development of targeted antiviral drugs.
The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (HMPV) give rise to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis that can be fatal, particularly for premature babies, infants and the elderly. There are currently no vaccines or effective treatments for these diseases.
Now, a team that included six researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore has used cryo-electron microscopy to determine the molecular structure of an enzyme that the viruses use when hijacking a cell’s machinery to get the cell to replicate them.
This structural information will help researchers discover ways to disrupt the enzyme’s activity and develop antiviral drugs that target such weak spots. Any antiviral drugs may be effective against other viruses belonging to the same viral family as RSV and HMPV, the team thinks.
- Nature 577, 275–279 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1759-1