Human Astrovirus Structure Could Lead to Therapies, Vaccines
News Nov 23, 2016
Human astroviruses infect nearly everyone during childhood, causing diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. For most people, it's not a serious disease, but structural biologist Rebecca DuBois saw how devastating it can be when she worked at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"There were all these young cancer patients who were successfully fighting their cancer, but they were getting severe chronic astrovirus infections because the chemotherapy suppressed their immune systems, and there was no treatment for it," said DuBois, now an assistant professor of biomolecular engineering at UC Santa Cruz.
By studying the astrovirus capsid, the protein shell of the viral particles, the DuBois lab is laying the foundation for new antiviral therapies and vaccines for human astroviruses. In a new study accepted for publication in the Journal of Virology, she used x-ray crystallography to show how a specific protein structure on the surface of the virus is blocked by a neutralizing antibody, thus preventing the virus from infecting human cells.
"We've identified a site of vulnerability on the surface of the virus that we can now target for development of a vaccine or antiviral therapy," DuBois said. "These are the first results showing how a neutralizing antibody blocks this virus."
Antibody binding site
The study shows how the antibody binds to a structure known as the astrovirus capsid spike domain, which projects from the surface of the virus. By binding to the spike domain, the antibody blocks the virus's ability to attach to and infect human cells.
The new findings provide a roadmap for researchers to design a vaccine based on the spike domain that can induce neutralizing antibodies and prevent infection in children. The study also highlights the potential to develop therapeutic antibodies to treat severe astrovirus infections.
"Antibody therapeutics is a rapidly growing field. Many immunotherapies are being developed to target cancer cells, and we expect to see a growing number of antibody therapies for infectious diseases over the next ten years," DuBois said.
Graduate student Walter Bogdanoff is first author of the paper. DuBois noted that the first three authors of the paper--Bogdanoff and undergraduates Jocelyn Campos and Edmundo Perez--have all been supported by the STEM Diversity Programs at UC Santa Cruz.
"It's a great program that funds undergraduates and graduate students from diverse backgrounds to do laboratory research, and they really do become accomplished scientists and well prepared for graduate school and careers in science," she said.
Story from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Original piece written by Tim Stephens. Please note: The content above may have been edited to ensure it is in keeping with Technology Networks’ style and length guidelines.
Bogdanoff, W. A., Campos, J., Perez, E. I., Yin, L., Alexander, D. L., & DuBois, R. M. (2016). Structure of a human Astrovirus Capsid - antibody complex and mechanistic insights into virus neutralization. Journal of Virology. doi:10.1128/jvi.01859-16
Building Molecular Wires, One Atom at a TimeNews
Electronic devices are getting smaller and smaller. Early computers filled entire rooms. Today you can hold one in the palm of your hand. Now the field of molecular electronics is taking miniaturization to the next level. Researchers are creating electronic components so tiny they can’t be seen with the naked eye.READ MORE
Longevity Protein Reveals its SecretsNews
In a recent study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure of a proteins linked to longevity and metabolism, beta-Klotho, illuminating its intricate mechanism and therapeutic potential. The study findings could have implications for therapies developed to treat a wide range of medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers.READ MORE
Radical New Approach to Vaccine Development Could Help Reduce Illness From FluNews
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help lower that figure for future flu seasons.READ MORE