How a protein from flu virus hijacks your cellular machinery

If you've ever had a proper bout of the flu then you'll know how ill it can make you feel. With symptoms ranging from runny noses and sore throats to fever, muscle pains and intense headaches lasting over several days, it can be pretty debilitating and in people with complications flu can be fatal. Fortunately, we know have a good understanding of flu transmission and dynamics and we can vaccinate vulnerable people to prevent disease and reduce the risks of dangerous pandemics.

However, there are still many details of the cellular mechanisms used by the influenza virus that we don't understand. In a recent study, driven by the University of Edinburgh but involving JBL Science's Dr. Andy Gill, we have investigated how a key protein encoded by flu helps the virus replicate in the host's cells.

Like many viruses, influenza must harness the host's cells own machinery to replicate through production of its own proteins and nucleic acid particles, whilst evading the host's natural immune defences. One of the most important proteins in both aspects of this process is called NS1 - non structural protein 1 - and this protein acts an adaptor between viral ribo-nucleic acids and the cells processing machinery as well as interfering in a multitude of cellular defence processes.

In the recently-published study, the research team, led by Prof Paul Digard of the University of Edinburgh, used NS1 protein carrying a range of mutations to investigate binding to cellular proteins, as determined by proteomic methods overseen by Andy Gill, and the effect that different binding activites had on viral nucleic acid processing. The study extends our knowledge of how NS1 helps flu virus hijack host cell machinery for its own purposes.

Andy Gill said "this study is an excellent example of the power of proteomics workflows, centred on mass spectrometry, when it is applied to cutting edge bioscience, such as that undertaken by Prof Digard's team. Collaborative efforts like these produce truly interdisciplinary science and help push the boundaries of both life and analytical sciences alike."

For more details please contact Dr. Andy Gill.

Link to the article on the Lincoln University repository:

Pereira, Carina F and Wise, Helen M. and Kurian, Dominic and Pinto, Rute M. and Amorim, Maria J and Gill, Andrew and Digard, Paul (2018) Effects of mutations in the effector domain of influenza A virus NS1 protein. BMC Research Notes . ISSN 1756-0500

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