Getting to the core of an emergent public health threat

inery to make copies of itself to spread an infection.

Hogue is collaborating with Zhong Huang, an assistant research professor also in Biodesigns Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, to express parts of the spike protein in plants. The scientists hope to develop a vaccine that can block the interaction of the spike protein with the host receptor and consequently prevent infection.

Another important viral target of Hogues research is the role of the coronavirus envelope protein (E protein), described in "Role of the Coronavirus E Viroporin Protein Transmembrane Domain in Virus Assembly," Journal of Virology (April 2007). By creating mutants of the E protein in a mouse coronavirus model that infects the liver and other organs, Ye and Hogue found that the virus lost some of its ability to assemble and be released from cells.

Proteins similar to the E protein that can form channels in membranes are present in other viruses too, which would make the development of an antiviral that blocks the function of the E protein potentially applicable to a wide variety of diseases, Hogue said.

Teasing apart the cycle of coronavirus infection has helped Hogues group identify new molecular targets and provided some exciting avenues to pursue. By continuing their fundamental research on viruses, the Biodesign team hopes to refine their understanding of virus-host interactions. "Our basic research is an essential foundation for translational research directed at dealing with the diseases caused by these viruses," Hogue said.


Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
Arizona State University

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