Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Gaining Entry

Protein identified that's used by respiratory virus to enter and infect airway cells

26 September 2019

Gaining Entry

Unable to replicate independently, viruses have developed a range of tricks to enter host cells, often hijacking the hosts’ own proteins to let them in. Researchers are exploring how one such pathogen, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), gains access to the epithelial cells lining our respiratory tract. By inhibiting over 20,000 genes individually in host cells, then infecting these modified cells with RSV (shown in red, entering cells with nuclei in blue), scientists identified a protein with a big impact on infection: ATP1A1 (in green), part of a critical enzyme transporting ions across cell membranes. Further tests showed that RSV upregulates ATP1A1, and that this protein in turn activates processes critical to RSV entry. Understanding how the virus enters host cells, and how we might block it, could be crucial towards developing treatments tackling RSV, a leading cause of respiratory diseases like pneumonia and bronchiolitis in children.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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