Turning Ebola against itself to fight the viral disease

Posted Jan 9, 2015 by Tim Sandle
A research project has been looking at how the most common protein the makes up the Ebola virus can be blocked. This is seen as importance since the protein mediates replication of a new viral particle.
Computer reconstruction of the Ebola virus
Computer reconstruction of the Ebola virus
Ebola virus disease (EVD) describes the human disease which is caused by any of four of five known Ebola viruses. The name of this grouping comes from Ebola River in Republic of the Congo, near to where the first case of the virus was detected in 1976. Considerable international effort has been focused on finding an effective treatment. The current The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first reported in March 2014. People have died from the disease in six countries to date: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the U.S. and Mali.
The protein being examined is termed VP 40 and it plays a key role in the way that the Ebola virus replicates and goes onto to infect people. VP40 coordinates numerous functions in the viral life cycle of the Ebola virus. These include: regulation of viral transcription, morphogenesis, packaging and budding of mature virions (virus particles.)
The Ebola virus only has seven proteins that encode in its genome. Of these, VP40 is seen as the most important one for the formation of a new viral particle. The protein does this by interacting with lipids (fats) inside human cells. This helps to generate the lipid coat of the virus and enables it to move onto to infect a new human cell and to replicate again.
This is important in the make-up of the Ebola virus. The virus is a lipid-enveloped virus and it obtains its lipid bilayer coat from the human cell it infects. Scientists think that a greater understanding of the VP 40 is the key to developing a new type of therapeutic agent with which to kill the virus. Thus study, in the long-term, aims to understand the biochemical and biophysical machinations with the protein, and within the virus.
The research has been carried out at the University of Notre Dame together with the Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend. The findings have been published in Journal of Biological Chemistry in a paper titled “The Ebola Virus Matrix Protein VP40 Selectively Induces Vesiculation from Phosphatidylserine-enriched Membranes.”