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To drive infections, a hijacking virus mimics a cell's signaling system
Date:3/26/2012

nt infections alternating with inactive periods. Like other viruses, HSV-1 is known to manipulate cellular processes in order to infect cells, but the specific mechanisms by which it acts on the DNA repair pathway were previously unknown.

Weitzman's study team was studying a viral protein called ICP0 that overcomes host defenses by targeting cellular proteins for destruction. They found that ICP0 exploits phosphorylation, a chemical mark that is often used in cells to promote interactions between proteins, especially as part of the cellular signaling response to DNA damage. In HSV-1 infection, the phosphorylation signal on ICP0 attracts a cellular DNA damage response protein, RNF8, which binds to the false signaling marker and is then degraded. Because RNF8 normally inhibits viral replication, its destruction leaves the cell vulnerable to HSV-1 infection, as the virus takes over the cell's machinery.

The researchers also found that ICP0 exploits the same phosphorylation signal to bind to other cellular proteins in addition to RNF8, a hint that it may play a broader role in defeating antiviral defenses and manipulating cellular machinery. Weitzman will continue to investigate HSV-1 infection in neurons and in animal models. He also plans to extend his research into other viruses, which may act on different pathways than HSV-1 does. "Ultimately," he added, "better knowledge of molecular mechanisms in infection may suggest strategies to interrupt the viral life cycle and treat infections."


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Contact: John Ascenzi
Ascenzi@email.chop.edu
267-426-6055
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Source:Eurekalert

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