Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Protein that helps viruses hijack cell replication machinery and spread could be a target to halt infection

21 December 2018

Joyriding Viruses

When entering a human cell, some viruses just replicate and move on. Others, it appears, grab the steering wheel, start the engine, and make off. This video shows the tracks taken by human cells hijacked by such a virus (infection at the centre). It’s thought that by commandeering the cell’s motility machinery, poxviruses and others like them are able to promote their own spread around the body. Researchers have now discovered that in the case of vaccinia virus (a type of poxvirus) production of a viral protein called vaccinia growth factor (VGF) is responsible for revving the cell’s engine. Indeed, deletion of VGF from the vaccinia genome reduced the spread of the virus and the size of viral lesions in vaccinia-infected mice. By determining the mechanisms underlying this viral joy-riding, researchers hope to develop targeted anti-viral strategies that stop the stolen cells in their tracks and thus reduce the severity of infection.

Written by Ruth Williams

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