The protein removes a protective coat from the virus's genetic material, exposing the viral genome so that it can be copied, and then returns the coat, according to a new study led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.
    
The research, in cell cultures, showed that interfering with this process kills the virus. As part of the study, the researchers introduced rogue coat-check attendants into Ebola-infected cells. These rogue attendants carried a short chain of amino acids that forms the part of the protein that removes the coat.

But they lacked the ability to return the coat, disrupting the emergence of newly created viruses from infected cells. Consequently, the virus did not survive.
    
"This coat-check protein, known as VP35, has a great deal of potential as a new target for Ebola treatments," said senior author Gaya Amarasinghe.
    
"If we can block this process, we can stop Ebola infection by blocking viral replication," said Amarasinghe.    The Ebola outbreak that began last year in West Africa has infected nearly 25,000 people and killed more than 10,000, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
    
Amarasinghe, first author Daisy Leung and colleagues have spent the past seven years studying the role of VP35, a viral protein involved in the replication process.
    
The researchers showed that VP35 binds to the virus's nucleoprotein - which forms part of the protective coat worn by the virus' RNA. They found that this binding removes the nucleoprotein from the viral RNA prior to replication.

And while the viral RNA is being copied, VP35 keeps newly synthesised nucleoproteins from attaching to other RNA in the host cell.
    
New copies of the virus require new protein coats. So VP35 also ensures that new nucleoproteins - made by the host cell's protein-making machinery - bind only to Ebola RNA, allowing the virus to complete replicating.

Disabling or disrupting VP35 could stop the virus in its tracks, according to Amarasinghe. The study appears in the journal Cell Reports.

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