Biology Forum Molecular Biology Scientists release a new tool of virus research

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      Do you know that scientists release a new tool of virus research?

      On the basis of mass spectrometry analysis, scientists developed a new proteomics technology – QTV (quantitative temporal viromics). This technology can conduct systematic quantitative analysis on real-time dynamic condition of host and viral proteins in the process of viral infection and show specific virus-host interaction process. Research papers were published in the recent issue of the journal Cell.

      Under the help of QTV technology, Professor Steven Gygi from Harvard Medical School led his research team to analyze the specific process of cytomegalovirus CMV infecting fibroblasts. They not only identified CMV invasion pathways, but also revealed the specific strategies of viral protein evading immune attack.

      Most people in the world are CMV carriers. If CMV carriers have always been very healthy, then it will not cause any harm. However, if immune system of the body is damaged (such as HIV infection or organ transplant), this virus can lead to serious or even fatal consequences. Gygi said, "We provide a new tool for studying the behavior of the virus and its infection strategies."

      Mass spectrometry is mainly used by physicists and chemists to detect small molecules. Until recently, it begins to be used for proteomics research. This is because those molecules of proteins are relatively large, and they are traditionally not suitable for mass spectrometric analysis. In the new study, Michael Weekes at Gygi laboratory decided to use mass spectrometry to track the trajectory of a viral infection. He chose CMV, because this virus is very common, and people know little about it.

      Weekes was prepared fibroblasts which were just infected by CMV and harvested viral and cellular proteins at different time points within three days, and then he conducted mass spectrometry on them. The first three days of CMV infection is particularly important, because the virus enters the incubation period during this time.

      The researchers analyzed a total of nearly eight thousand proteins, not only identified CMV invasion route, also found a lot of new therapeutic targets. It is noteworthy that, QTV technology can deeply analyze the proteins on the cell surface. This is particularly important, because the vast majority of the drugs take the cell surface proteins as targets, while these proteins are harder to be studied than the proteins inside the cells. Weekes and his colleagues found 29 viral proteins located on the cell surface, 23 of which are the newly discovered. These proteins can affect innate and adaptive immunity in different ways: on one side, they avoid reinforcements of host immune system; on the other side, they collapse the defense force of cells themselves.

      Next, the researchers will identify the antibodies against viral proteins, hoping to destroy infected cells before the spread of the virus.

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