PULLMAN, Wash. - A team of scientists from Washington State University has discovered how one of the planet's most deadly known viruses employs burglary-ring-like teamwork to infiltrate the human cell.
Nipah virus is so menacing that the nation's top infectious disease experts served as consultants in the filmmaking of the 2011 medical thriller, "Contagion," which is based on a global Nipah outbreak.
The WSU researchers, led by virologist Hector Aguilar-Carreno, have found that two proteins on the surface of the virus communicate in a way similar to two skilled burglars with one casing the human cell while the other waits for a signal to launch the break-in. Their findings were recently published in the medical journal PLOS Pathogens. (Go to http://www.plospathogens.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.ppat.1003770;jsessionid=4D884A79CA91DD62B0CF925A8205C1B8).
"Our study provides the most complete picture of what happens after Nipah virus attaches itself to the surface of the human cell to gain entry," said Aguilar-Carreno of WSU's Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health. "This is important not only to our understanding of how Nipah is transmitted, but also for viruses of the same family that can cause serious human and animal diseases."
Those include measles, mumps, respiratory syncytial virus in humans and distemper in dogs, he said.
Invasion from inner space
Working with disabled Nipah microbes that can't cause infection, Aguilar-Carreno and his colleagues determined that two proteins act as forward scouts, with protein G sensing an opportunity to activate the break-and-enter and then signaling the go-ahead to protein F to start the fusion process.
This signal exchange is so efficient that it helps explain how a sing
|Contact: Hector Aguilar-Carreno|
Washington State University