When the rabies virus enters a human cell through the membrane, the RNA molecule that carries its genes is transported into the centre of the cell. Here it redirects the cellular machinery of the host to produce many new copies of the virus that go on to infect more cells. One molecule that is crucial in this process is a viral protein called nucleoprotein. The protein ensures that on its way through the cell the virus RNA is not destroyed by the immune response of the host.
"Nucleoprotein is vital for the rabies virus," says Rob Ruigrok, Head of the IVMS. "It is one of the few proteins that the virus brings into the host cell and it wraps around the RNA like a protection shield. Without this shield the RNA would be degraded by the enzymes of the human immune system that try to eliminate the invader."
To investigate how exactly this protection shield works, Aurlie Albertini from Ruigrok's team obtained crystals of nucleoprotein bound to RNA. Examining the crystals with high-intensity X-ray sources at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Amy Wernimont from Winfried Weissenhorn's group at EMBL Grenoble produced a hi
Contact: Anna-Lynn Wegener
European Molecular Biology Laboratory