Coat of proteins makes viruses more infectious

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STOCKHOLM

New research from Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet shows that viruses interact with proteins in the biological fluids of their host which results in a layer of proteins on the viral surface. This coat of proteins makes the virus more infectious and facilitates the formation of plaques characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists from Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet have found that viruses and nanoparticles share another important property; they both become covered by a layer of proteins when they encounter the biological fluids of their host before they find their target cell. This layer of proteins on the surface influence their biological activity significantly.

“Imagine a tennis ball falling into a bowl of milk and cereals. The ball is immediately covered by the sticky particles in the mix and they remain on the ball when you take it out of the bowl. The same thing happens when a virus gets in contact with blood or lung fluids that contain thousands of proteins. Many of these proteins immediately stick to the viral surface forming a so-called protein corona, Kariem Ezzat of Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet explains.

Kariem Ezzat and his colleagues studied the protein corona of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in different biological fluids. RSV is the most common cause of acute lower respiratory tract infections in young children worldwide, leading up to 34 million cases and 196,000 fatalities each year.

The protein corona signature of RSV in the blood is very different from that in lung fluids. It is also different between humans and other species such as rhesus macaque monkeys, which also can be infected with RSV, Kariem Ezzat says.

The virus remains unchanged on the genetic level. It just acquires different identities by accumulating different protein coronae on its surface depending on its environment.—VoM

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