Sugar molecules on the surface of host cells are linked to all rotavirus infections, according to research published online in Nature Chemical Biology this week. The unexpected finding promises to aid efforts to develop treatments for this dangerous virus.
Rotaviruses attack cells of the gut and are the leading cause of severe diarrhea in young children. The virus in animal cells can be treated with a protein called sialidase, which cuts sialic acids -- a specific group of sugar molecules -- from the cell surface. Unsuccessful attempts to treat other rotaviruses with this protein resulted in the rotaviruses being grouped into two classes of 'sialidase-sensitive' and 'sialidase-insensitive' strains.
Mark von Itzstein and colleagues use nuclear magnetic resonance and cellular assays to demonstrate that a 'sialidase-insensitive' virus strain, Wa, does recognize sialic acids and in fact this interaction increases its ability to infect the host cell. The research demands a rethinking of how rotaviruses work and may point to new treatments for the infection.
Mark von Itzstein (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Abstract available online.(C) Nature Chemical Biology press release.
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