Scientists uncovered the structure of key pneumonia virus enzyme

Offering new targets for designing antiviral molecules against both viruses.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (HMPV) cause severe respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis in infants and elder adults. Neither a vaccine nor an effective antiviral therapy exists to control RSV or HMPV infections.

Now scientists at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), have discovered a new pathway to disable respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (HMPV) after elucidating the structure of one of its key components.

Using cryo-electron microscopy, scientists were able to image the molecular structure of one of these large complexes, an enzyme called HMPV L:P polymerase. They imaged the enzyme at a resolution of 3.7 Angstrom or 0.37 nanometres. Based on these two-dimensional pictures, they also built three-dimensional computer models of the proteins’ L:P molecular structures.

Dr. Julien Lescar from NTU’s School of Biological Sciences said, “with this detailed structural knowledge, we hope to develop inhibitors that disrupt the enzymatic activities of HPMV L:P protein and potentially block infection by the virus.”

“We hope that our work will help researchers in pharma and academia around the world to design much-needed therapies for difficult viral infections that often lead to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.”

The team reported their findings in the journal Nature.

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