Tool encoded in coronaviruses provides a potential target for COVID-19
Coronaviruses exploit our cells so they can make copies of themselves inside us. After they enter our cells, they use our cell machinery to make unique tools of their own that help them generate these copies. By understanding the molecular tools that are shared across coronaviruses, there is potential to develop treatments that can not only work in the current COVID-19 pandemic, but in future coronavirus outbreaks as well. Rockefeller University researchers in the labs of Tarun Kapoor and Shixin Liu, including postdoctoral associate Keith Mickolajczyk, recently published their study of one of these molecular tools, which is a potential drug target.
During a viral infection, viruses make copies of themselves inside their host, and viruses carry genetic instructions for several tools in order to do so. One of those tools is called a helicase—all organisms have helicases that unwind the genetic information so it can be read or copied. ickolajczyk had been studying helicases and other molecular motors when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and turned his attention to a helicase encoded in the genome of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), called nsp13. They also found that nsp13 did not act like a Hepatitis C virus helicase with a similar shape, and instead acted more like ring-shaped helicases found in bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria).
Immunogenetics Open Access