Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Under Wraps

High resolution structure of Nipah virus provides insight into anti-viral targets

26 September 2021

Under Wraps

While the world is still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, scientists are already looking ahead to try to anticipate the next threat. One priority is Nipah virus, discovered in 1998, a zoonotic virus infecting many species, from bats to pigs, and transmissible to and between humans. Symptoms can include encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, with a mortality rate over 40%, so better understanding this virus to mitigate potential outbreaks is critical. Its genome is a single strand of RNA, wrapped around a helical nucleocapsid (N) protein, that provides protection and assists with replication. Using cryo-electron microscopy, imaging flash-frozen samples, researchers recently reconstructed the N protein’s 3D structure: the segment here shows viral RNA, in magenta, nestling between its inner and outer domains, in red and green. Structural details will enable comparisons with other known viruses, and help assess which sections could be targeted by the immune system and potential therapies.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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