Pressurized virus blasts its infectious DNA into human cells

July 24, 2013

The virus that causes those painful lip blisters known as cold sores has an internal pressure eight times higher than a car tire, and uses it to literally blast its infectious DNA into human cells, scientists are reporting in a new study. Discovery of the pressure-driven infection mechanism—the first in a human virus—opens the door to new treatments for viral infections, they add in a study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Alex Evilevitch and colleagues point out that the viruses responsible for influenza, AIDS and other infections that affect millions of people annually are quick to develop resistance to drugs that target . Through , these proteins can quickly disguise themselves and evade anti-viral drugs. That has led to a search for vulnerabilities that don't involve viral proteins. Evilevitch's team looked at the pressure inside the 1 (HSV-1), the virus that causes cold sores.

They describe how HSV-1 enters cells, docks with portals on the nucleus and injects DNA with high pressure caused by tight packing of the capsid, the tough shell that houses the viral genome. Researchers already knew that several viruses that infect bacteria, called bacteriophages, use the same high-pressure mechanism to shoot their DNA into bacteria nuclei. Evilevitch and colleagues conclude that evolution has preserved this effective technique as a key step in viral infection—making it a desirable target for future treatments to defeat HSV-1 and other viruses that work the same way. The same mechanism exists in eight related viruses, including those responsible for mononucleosis and chickenpox in children, and shingles in adults. Drugs that interfere with it thus could limit "the potential for development of drug resistance that can occur due to rapid adaptive mutations of viral genomes," the scientists state.

Explore further: Researchers identify unexpected bottleneck in the spread of herpes simplex virus

More information: J. Am. Chem. Soc., Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/ja404008r

Related Stories

Study reveals new approach for stopping herpes infections

March 25, 2013

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered a novel strategy for preventing infections due to the highly common herpes simplex viruses, the microbes responsible for causing genital ...

Recommended for you

An accessible approach to making a mini-brain

October 1, 2015

If you need a working miniature brain—say for drug testing, to test neural tissue transplants, or to experiment with how stem cells work—a new paper describes how to build one with what the Brown University authors say ...

Tension helps heart cells develop normally in the lab

October 1, 2015

The heart is never quite at rest, and it turns out that even in a lab heart cells need a little of that tension. Without something to pull against, heart cells grown from stem cells in a lab dish fail to develop normally.

Dormant viral genes may awaken to cause ALS

September 30, 2015

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health discovered that reactivation of ancient viral genes embedded in the human genome may cause the destruction of neurons in some forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.