Scientists at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and the Molecular Biology Institute of Barcelona (IBMB-CSIC) have published a study in the journal Nature Communications revealing the structure of a key protein, known as a portal, in Epstein-Barr virus infection.
The Epstein-Barr virus, which belongs to the herpesvirus family, is one of the most widespread human viruses and the main cause of infectious mononucleosis (also known as glandular fever). In addition, it causes several kinds of cancer, including Burkitt and Hodgkins lymphoma, stomach cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer, as well as several autoimmune diseases. There is currently no treatment for infections caused by this virus.
“Understanding the structure of the portal protein could prove useful for the design of inhibitors for the treatment of herpesvirus infections such as Epstein-Barr. Also, given that this protein is found only in herpesviruses, these inhibitors would be virus-specific and may be less toxic for humans,” says Miquel Coll, head of the Structural Biology of Protein & Nucleic Acid Complexes and Molecular Machines Lab at IRB Barcelona and professor at CSIC.
All herpesviruses have a similar infection mechanism. Having entered the cell and reached the nucleus, the viruses release their DNA, which can remain latent for years until certain conditions trigger its replication. After this process, DNA is then introduced into new viral capsids, thereby forming new viruses that can attack other cells. The portal protein is the route through which DNA enters the viral capsid and through which it leaves to infect cells.
Read more at IRB Barcelona