Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Hide and Sneak

SARS-CoV-2 turns off a key immune protein to evade detection

03 January 2022

Hide and Sneak

When a virus enters a cell and starts taking over the machinery, an immune protein called major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I goes into action. The complex collects pieces of viral proteins and displays them on the cell surface alerting other immune cells to the presence of the invader and directing the cells to attack. But some viruses are crafty and, by crippling the MHC class I pathway, can hide from the host immune system at least to some extent. Among these evasive viruses is SARS-CoV-2, which recent research shows turns off a key MHC class I-activating protein called NLRC5. An infected cell is shown here, coloured green, surrounded by uninfected cells that still express NLRC5 (reddish purple). Figuring out the mechanics of SARS-CoV-2’s immune evading tactics may inform the design of novel therapeutics that, if applied early during infection, could boost the host response and shorten the illness.

Written by Ruth Williams

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