Scientists develop new method to block coronavirus replication

Henrietta Strickland
October 18, 2020

It involves the blocking of a molecular "scissor" that the pathogen uses for its own production and to disarm vital proteins essential in the human body's immune response.

There are common vulnerabilities among three lethal coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, such as frequently hijacked cellular pathways, that could lead to promising targets for broad coronavirus inhibition, according to a study by an global research team that includes scientists from the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University. Antibodies produced by the body's immune system bind to part of this protein and block the ability of this "key" to contact the host's cellular "barrier", Finzi said, thereby preventing the virus particle from infecting a cell host.

Dr. Olsen and his team decoded the three-dimensional structures of the SARS-CoV-2-PLpro enzyme and the two inhibitor molecules known as VIR251 and VIR250. SARS-CoV-2-PLpro promotes infection, as per the report.

The newly-created enzyme promotes infection by detecting and processing both human and viral proteins, according to senior author Shaun K. Olsen, Ph.D., an associate professor of biochemistry and structural biology in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine from UT Health San Antonio. "The enzyme acts like a molecular scissor". "It cleaves ubiquitin and ISG15 away from other proteins, which reverses their normal effects".

This was done with the help of X-ray crystallography.

The researchers solved the three-dimensional structures of SARS-CoV-2-PLpro and the two inhibitor molecules, dubbed VIR250 and VIR251.

The spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 plays a crucial role in helping the virus grab and invade host cells. They found out that SARS-CoV-2-PLpro processes ISG15 and ubiquitin in a different way than its SARS-1 predecessor.

Scientists from Britain's University of Oxford have developed a rapid COVID-19 test able to identify the coronavirus in less than five minutes, researchers said on Thursday, adding it could be used in mass testing at airports and businesses.

Researchers say this approach exploits the fact that distinct virus types have differences in their fluorescence labelling due to differences in their surface chemistry, size, and shape.

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