How the coronavirus outwits a cell

Coronavirus – Researchers at ETH Zurich and the University of Bern have found out how the coronavirus takes control of an infected cell. The mechanism discovered means that the cells produce almost only virus proteins instead of their own.

After the coronavirus hijacked a human cell, the protein called NSP1 was made one of the first virus proteins. It was already known from other coronaviruses that NSP1 inhibits the production of cellular proteins. The scientists have now figured out exactly how this happens.

The so-called ribosomes read genetic information and use it to produce proteins. When reading, the blueprint passes through a channel in the ribosome. In a study in the journal “Nature Structural & Molecular Biology”, the researchers were able to show that NSP1 binds within the channel and thus blocks the ribosome.

Opportunity for drug development

By means of cryo-electron microscopy, the binding site of NSP1 could be shown with atomic resolution. “This detailed image provides important information on the design of a possible future drug that prevents the binding of NSP1 but does not impair ribosomal function,” said Nenad Ban, Professor of Molecular Biology at ETH Zurich and co-author of the study, according to the university’s announcement .

In experiments, the researchers produced modified NSP1 variants that had lost their inhibitory effect. Sars-CoV-2 viruses with such inactive variants would be weakened so that they can no longer multiply and thus no longer trigger a strong disease. According to the researchers, such weakened viruses could be used as vaccines.

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41594-020-0511-8

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