A small molecule has been discovered in coral that can be used to block the replication of certain viruses, reports a study in the April issue of Nature Chemical Biology. The research shows that the natural product, hippuristanol, specifically impairs the machinery used to make proteins.
Jerry Pelletier and colleagues isolated hippuristanol from the coral Isis hippuris. The authors found that this molecule prevents a protein, eIF4A, from binding to mRNA. mRNA carries the code to make proteins from DNA to specific sites of protein synthesis in the cell. By binding to the mRNA, eIF4A initiates the translation of the protein code. Hippuristanol prevents replication by inhibiting this process. Viruses like poliovirus that hijack this initiation machinery are also known to use eIF4A and could therefore be targeted by hippuristanol.
Hippuristanol now joins the arsenal of anti-viral compounds and can also be used to distinguish whether new viruses rely on eIF4A.
Jerry Pelletier (McGill University, Quebec, Canada)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Chemical Biology press release.
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