"We hope that determining the structure of this essential piece of the herpes virus cell-entry machinery will help us answer some of the many questions about how herpes virus initiates infection. Knowing the structures of cell-entry proteins will help us find the best strategy for interfering with this pervasive family of viruses," said first author Tirumala K. Chowdary, PhD, a postdoctoral associate in the department of molecular biology and microbiology at TUSM and member of Heldwein's lab.
Currently, there is no cure for herpes viruses. Upon infection, the viruses remain in the body for life and can stay inactive for long periods of time. When active, however, different herpes viruses can cause cold sores, blindness, encephalitis, or cancers. More than half of Americans are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which causes cold sores, by the time they reach their 20s. Currently, about one in six Americans is infected with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), the virus responsible for genital herpes. Complications of HSV-2, a sexually-transmitted disease, include recurrent painful genital sores, psychological distress, and, if transmitted from mother to child, potentially fatal infections in newborn infants.
Heldwein teamed up with colleagues at University of Pennsylvania and used x-ray crystallography along with cell microscopy techniques to study the structure and function of this cell-entry protein complex in HSV-2. Heldwein is currently developing a molecular movie that illustrates how herpes virus enters the cell.
|Contact: Siobhan Gallagher|
Tufts University, Health Sciences