"This may be one central part of the Achilles' heel in interactions of herpes virus with a cell to start infection. We can use the receptor molecule to try to understand the process and perhaps combat infection at this vulnerable site," says A. Oveta Fuller, Ph.D. the leader of the U-M team, senior author on the two papers and an associate professor in the U-M Medical School's Microbiology and Immunology Department. "While we're still a few years away from being able to use this new knowledge to find effective drug candidates, this is a very exciting confluence of discoveries."
The U-M holds a patent on the system and methods that the team used to make the discoveries.
Coincidentally, the U-M team's findings about the B5 receptor are being published at about the same time as an Italian team's reports about a possible 'key' on the herpes simplex virus surface that may match the 'lock' found by the U-M team. The Italian team has identified a region of a viral surface protein that matches the U-M team's predictions of what the virus likely would use to bind and engage the B5 receptor.
"It appears that B5 is a new class of viral receptor. Unlike other viruses so far, HSV seems to have evolved to take advantage of a broadly present cellular protein that has properties like that of known cellular fusion machinery," says Fuller. "No other virus has been shown to use a cellular fusion protein for entry into cells."
She explains that the search for the mechanisms by which HSV enters cells has been hindered by the fact that the virus is very good at entering so many kinds of cells. The many possibilities for virus binding to cells make deciphering the entry process a difficult problem to solve.
The gene that encodes B5 had in fact been sequenced, but not characterized, as part of the Human Genome Project. Discovering its role and studying the HSV entry mecha
Source:University of Michigan Health System