Newly Discovered Viral Gateway Into Cells Could Play Role In Diagnosis And Treatment Of Leukemia, HIV And Other Viral Diseases

Viruses employ all the techniques of seasoned spies to infiltrate cells. They change identities frequently and find secret gateways, known as receptors, through cell walls. Now, Chetankumar Tailor, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow and David Kabat, Ph.D, professor, both of Oregon Health Sciences University's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, have uncloaked a mechanism used by certain leukemia viruses to attach themselves to a cell surface and then sneak into the cell's interior.

The same researchers have also devised a way to rapidly clone human genes that encode receptors for selected viruses. Their study results, being published in the February issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help uncover clues to the diagnosis and treatment of not only leukemia, but HIV and other viral infections. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and The Wellcome Trust.

"Using DNA from human cells, we developed an improved method for cloning a human gene that encodes the receptor for two kinds of leukemia viruses called xenotropic and polytropic murine leukemia," said Kabat, in whose laboratory the experiments took place. "Receptors are proteins that serve as gatekeepers for the cell. For over a decade, many labs have been searching for receptors that viruses attach themselves to, with limited success. We have found new methods and now can reliably clone the gatekeeping system that welcomes the leukemia virus and guides it into the cell."

What's more, this research proves that diverse viruses can get into cells using the same receptor. The xenotropic leukemia viruses are part of a class of "retroviruses" that infect humans, other mammals and some wild strains of mice. The polytropic retroviruses cannot infect humans and are especially infectious to mice. But both forms of the virus use the same receptor to invade the cell. In other words, the receptor mechanism is the same in

Contact: Henry Sessions
Oregon Health & Science University

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