Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have discovered a trigger by which the Hepatitis C virus enters liver cells ─ shedding light on how this serious and potentially deadly virus can begin to damage the liver.
The findings, reported in the Dec. 7, 2012 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, may give scientists a target for future development of treatments for the virus.
In the early stages of a Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection, the researchers found, the virus binds to receptors on the liver cells' surface and activates PI3K and AKT, two proteins that control cell growth and metabolism, and which allow HCV to enter liver cells.
"When these two protein factors are activated, they trigger a cascade of reactions, altering the physiology of infected cells," said corresponding author and lead researcher James Ou, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Later, by continuing to disturb this pathway, the virus may sensitize the liver cells to eventually become cancerous."
The findings were reported in a paper titled "Transient Activation of the PI3K-AKT Pathway by Hepatitis C Virus to Enhance Viral Entry." First author was Zhe Liu, a postdoctoral research associate in Ou's lab. Serving as co-investigators were Keck faculty members Keigo Machida, assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, and Michael M.C. Lai, distinguished emeritus professor of microbiology and immunology, and neurology.
There are four-million carriers of HCV in the U.S. Often, people don't know that they have the virus until they already have some liver damage, which can take many years to develop. In time, the virus can lead to serious and deadly liver conditions: cirrhosis, a chronic, degenerative condition; cancer; and organ failure.
Some 20 percent of HCV patients will develop severe liver cirrhosis and may require liver transplantation, Ou noted. About five percent develop liver cancer after 20 to 30 years.
Ou has been studying HCV for 20 years and Hepatitis B virus for 30 years. The most recent study reflects his long-term interest in understanding the interactions between these two viruses and their host cells, and how they cause liver cancer.
"The next step, which we've just begun, is to understand how the activation of the PI3K-AKT pathway allows the [HCV] virus to enter the cell," Ou said. "This research has led to the identification of a novel target for the development of new anti-HCV drugs. Compounds that disrupt the PI3K-AKT pathway are expected to prevent the virus from entering liver cells, causing the virus to disappear."
University of Southern California - Health Sciences: http://uscnews.usc.edu/archives/health/
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
The largest specimen among Earth's first flying vertebrates boasted a 10-metre wingspan, dwarfing modern-day giants Continue reading...
How can creatures as different in body and mind as present-day humans and their extinct Neanderthal cousins be 99.84 percent identical genetically?
A mile deep expedition using robots has discovered three ships that sank off the coast of Galveston centuries ago. Archeologists are still unsure of why the vessels sunk.
Scientists based their technique on the one used to create the sheep Dolly years ago. These cells might one day be useful in treating all sorts of diseases.
It turns out the first chili peppers were grown by humans in eastern Mexico. And it's not the same region where beans and corn were first grown, according to new ways of evaluating evidence.
A team of international scientists have found four species of insects with reversed sex organs. The females' anatomy may have to do with their need for nutrients that only males produce.
For all but the shyest of wallflowers, moving to music is a natural human response. But what is it about a catchy tune that makes us groove? Scientists think they've figured out at least part of the recipe: just the right mix of regular rhythms and unexpected beats.
Artists' brains are structurally different to non-artists in areas relating to fine motor movements and visual imagery, a study finds.
Information about who suspects call and when is helping police work out who is linked to which crimes and even their place in the criminal hierarchy
The lead scientist behind a revolutionary method to turn adult cells into stem cells has been found guilty of misconduct, but insists the mistakes were unintentional