Scientists find a new way to target norovirus family

A new study, led by researchers at the MRC University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, within the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, has taken a major step forward in understanding how a family of viruses, including norovirus, initiate infections. The study reveals the inner workings of the calicivirus family, which includes norovirus and sapoviruses. These are highly infectious viruses that can cause outbreaks of diarrhoea and vomiting. It is hoped this research may provide a new target for the development of antiviral drugs to prevent diseases like norovirus.

Pictorial representation of a virusDr David Bhella, Professor of Structural Virology, Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, who led the research, said: “When viruses infect us, they bind to and then enter our cells. This is often by a process known as ‘endocytosis’, the process cells use to bring in nutrients from their environment. Viruses trigger endocytosis, causing the cell to bring the virus particle into the cell in a bubble or vesicle called an ‘endosome’. The virus then needs to break out of the endosome to release their genes into the cell and start the infection.

We have calculated an atomic model of the portal protein - known as VP2. While VP2 was known to be critical for the production of infectious virus, its function has been hitherto undetermined. Our finding that VP2 assembles a portal that is likely responsible for endosome escape represents a major step forward in our understanding of both the Caliciviridae and icosahedral RNA containing viruses in general.”

The full findings are published in the journal Nature here.

First published: 4 August 2019