Thursday, December 8, 2016

Disrupted Programmed Ribosomal Frameshifting in Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus Results in Decreased Virulence

Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus (VEEV) can cause systemic illness or encephalitis in humans; however, there are currently no FDA-approved vaccines or treatment. The results of a recent study suggest a new avenue of vaccine development. 

Researchers from the University of Maryland ablated programmed ribosomal frame shifting (PRF) in VEEV, which is when, upon reaching a stop codon, the ribosome backtracks and begins translating in a different reading frame. By disrupting PRF, VEEV was unable to produce the viral trans-frame protein (TF). While this only slightly affected the rate of viral replication in cultured cells, there was inhibited pathogenesis in mice infected with these viruses. In addition, the viral titers of TF in the brains of mice infected with the mutant virus were decreased, indicating that TF plays a role in crossing through the blood-brain barrier. Not only do these findings have implications for vaccine development but it is possible that these results can be applied to other viruses that undergo PRF.

-Sally Tran


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