The innate immune system detects invasive pathogens and activates defense mechanisms to eliminate them. Pathogens, however, employ a variety of tricks to block this process. A new study led by Karl-Peter Hopfner of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich shows how the measles virus thwarts the system, by means of a simple hairpin-like structure.
The innate immune system is the body's first line of defense against invasive pathogens and noxious chemicals. Essentially the system consists of an array of receptors that recognize particular molecular conformations which are characteristic of pathogenic organisms and viruses. Among the classes of molecules bound by these receptors are viral nucleic acids, which are bound specifically by so-called RIG-I-like receptors in the cytoplasm of infected cells. One of these is MDA5, which polymerizes into filaments on long double-stranded RNAs that indicate the presence of RNA viruses. RIG-I itself binds to shorter terminal segments of viral RNAs.
However, viruses have come up with a plethora of ways to avoid triggering immune defense measures. "The virus that causes measles, for instance, produces a so-called V protein, which binds specifically to MDA5 and one other RIG-I-like receptor, and thus impairs recognition of virus-infected cells by the adaptive immune system, although it does not inhibit RIG-I itself," says Professor Karl-Peter Hopfner of LMU's Gene Center. Indeed this kind of competition between viral and cellular proteins largely determines the distribution and - above all - the virulence of viral pathogens.
A hairpin opens up the receptor
"We have been able to crystallize the complex formed by the V protein and MDA5 for the first time, and have determined its three-dimensional structure in detail," Hopfner reports. This structure also permitted Hopfner's team, in collaboration with LMU virologist Professor Karl-Klaus Conzelmann, to clarify the mode of action of the V protein. The analysis revealed that it inserts a hairpin loop into the core secondary structure of MDA5, unfolding the protein and allowing V to bind to a segment that is normally buried in the interior of the molecule. This in turn prevents MDA5 from forming filaments and signaling the presence of viral RNA.
This finding was completely unexpected, and explains why MDA5, but not RIG-I, is inhibited by the V protein: This internal sequence is different in RIG-I and this is the reason why RIG-I is not targeted by the viral product. "Our work provides a detailed insight into the mechanisms viral proteins use to inhibit host protein function. It may also open opportunities for new therapeutic interventions," Hopfner concludes.
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit�t M�nchen: http://www.uni-muenchen.de
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 winners of the 2014 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition capture a rat brain, the mouthparts of a vampire moth and other small wonders
By analysing brain activity linked to hand and arm movements, a team has created a robotic arm that a paralysed woman can control with her thoughts
Adding laser tips to ordinary shoes can improve the stride and pace of people with Parkinson's disease
Technique could someday help repair injuries
Tiny microbes uncovered by the deepest-ever marine drilling expedition are analysed by scientists to see how they can survive under the seabed.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Speed, smarts, and the heart of a champion: using genomic analysis, scientists have identified DNA changes that helped turn ancient horses such as those in prehistoric cave art into today's Secretariats and Black Beautys, researchers reported Monday.
While their parents are off fishing, penguin chicks set up their own self-monitored babysitting service
Scientists have found the SS City of Rio de Janeiro, the most famous of San Francisco’s many lost ships, and produced 3-D sonar maps of the wreck.
Genome analysis of the two Antarctic-breeding penguins reveal the differing fate global warming might have on the iconic emperors and Adélies
A virtual replica of the first complete skull of a mysterious mammal is revealing the structure of its bizarre bones