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How Coronavirus tricks immune system with camouflage

Date: 27 July 2020 Tags: Biotechnology

Issue

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has been found to have the some advantage entering cells. A new study in Nature Communications describes how the coronavirus is able to achieve stealth.

 

Background

In lay terms, messenger RNA can be described as a deliverer of genetic code to worksites that produce proteins.

 

Details

  • The virus produces an enzyme called nsp16, which it then uses to modify its messenger RNA cap. In lay terms, messenger RNA can be described as a deliverer of genetic code to worksites that produce proteins.

  • The modifications by the virus serve as a camouflage. Because of the modifications, which fool the cell, the resulting viral messenger RNA is now considered as part of the cell’s own code and not foreign.

  • Researchers found this when they resolved the structure of nsp16. Deciphering the 3D structure of nsp16 paves the way for the rational design of antiviral drugs for Covid-19 and other emerging coronavirus infections.

  • The new small molecules in the drugs would inhibit nsp16 from making the modifications. The immune system would then recognise the virus as foreign, and target it.

  • The study discovered the 3D structure of a key enzyme of the Covid-19 virus required for its replication and found a pocket in it that can be targeted to inhibit that enzyme. This is a fundamental advance in our understanding of the virus.

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