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article imageNew clues as to how Ebola fights the human body

By Tim Sandle     Aug 15, 2014 in Science
The human body normally fights viral infections by releasing signalling proteins to trigger the immune response. Researchers have found a mechanism unique to the Ebola virus that blocks these proteins, allowing viral reproduction in infected cells.
One of the human body’s first responses to a viral infection is to make and release signaling proteins called interferons, which amplify the immune system response to viruses. Ebola has a means to block this pathway from occurring.
The Ebola virus produces a protein called Ebola Viral Protein 24 (eVP24). This stops the signalling protein (called interferon) from ramping up the body’s immune defenses. To trigger an effective, early response to viral infection, interferons must pass on their signal to other cells. This doesn’t happen in the case of Ebola.
With the body's first response disabled, the virus is then free to mass produce itself and trigger the large immune response that damages the body’s organs and which leads to Ebola virus disease (EVD). By determining the structure of an eVP24 in complex with a cellular transporter, scientists learnt how Ebola works against the human body. This was found through a combination of molecular biology techniques, cell studies and tests that reveal protein structures.
Scientists hope that these newfound details of Ebola biology can serve as the foundation of a new drug development effort. Knowing this means that it may be possible to find an antibody or molecule that interferes with eVP24.
The study was led by scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in collaboration with researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The research has been published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. The paper is titled “Ebola Virus VP24 Targets a Unique NLS Binding Site on Karyopherin Alpha 5 to Selectively Compete with Nuclear Import of Phosphorylated STAT1.”.
More about Ebola, Immunity, Immune cells, T cells
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