Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Outfoxing Chickenpox

Enzyme called calcineurin regulates the characteristic fusion of cells infected with the chickenpox/shingles virus

06 January 2021

Outfoxing Chickenpox

Like one rotten egg can drag a whole group of impressionable friends into trouble, cells infected with varicella zoster virus – the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles – corrupt those around them. A hallmark of the virus’ impact in infected regions is an amalgamation of cells, all fused together to form a growing mass with many nuclei (usually the single command centre of any individual cell). Shingles can have lasting and harmful effects, and comprehensive vaccines and treatments are still being improved, so developing our understanding of the molecular basis of the virus is essential. A new study showed that inhibiting an enzyme called calcineurin increased cell fusion (pictured post treatment, with infected cells in red and nuclei in blue), but suppressed the spreading of the virus. Identifying this pathway of cell fusion regulation provides a new perspective for potential antiviral strategies to put chickenpox back in its box.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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