NUMEROUS viruses require a specific host protein named ZC3H11A to grow efficiently, according to researchers from Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. The discovery that at least four different viruses use ZC3H11A for their transport within the cell provides a target for the development of new broad spectrum anti-viral treatments.
Previous research showed that the ZC3H11A gene is not essential for the growth of human cells; in this study, the team instead decided to test cells lacking ZC3H11A with a viral infection. In these cells, they observed a drastic reduction of growth of adenovirus compared with cells that expressed the ZC3H11A protein, demonstrating that this effect also occurred in three other types of virus.
The researchers were surprised by their discovery, which shows that ZCH3H11A is a stress-induced RNA binding protein and suggests it is part of a cellular mechanism for RNA transport activated during stress that has been taken over by nuclear-replicating viruses for their own advantage.
“We have now demonstrated that at least four different viruses: adenovirus, influenza virus, HIV, and herpes simplex virus, that all replicate in the host cell nucleus, are dependent on the ZC3H11A protein for their efficient growth,” explained PhD Fellow Wael Kamel, Uppsala University. “These viruses need ZC3H11A for the transport of virus RNA from the nucleus to the cytoplasm where the virus proteins will be produced before the viruses can exit the cell and infect other cells.”
This indicates that the ZC3H11A gene, which is expressed essentially in all human cells, is not important for cellular function but is crucial for the growth of multiple viruses, providing a potential opportunity to create a broad spectrum anti-viral therapy.
“There is a strong need to develop new anti-viral drugs as is well illustrated by the quite severe influenza we have had this winter,” commented Prof Leif Andersson, Uppsala University. “A major goal for the team is now to test if they can block how viruses take advantage of the function of the ZC3H11A protein and if this will impair virus growth in living animals, not only in cells as they have proven in the current study.”
James Coker, Reporter
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