Scientists have discovered the structure of an enzyme called nsp16 that coronavirus uses to trick the immune system and gain access to host cells, which it hijacks to replicate.
Understanding how nsp16 works could lead to new antiviral drugs for COVID-19[feminine[feminine patients by inhibiting the enzyme allowing the virus to pass beyond safety.
The enzyme is used to change what’s called the messenger RNA cap, a signature that tells cells that the proteins they’re being asked to make are the right ones.
“It’s a cover-up,” said Dr. Yogesh Gupta of the University of Texas, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications
“Due to the changes, which trick the cell, the resulting viral messenger RNA is now considered part of the cell’s own code and not foreign. ”
Understanding the structure of the enzyme could allow researchers to develop drugs – new small molecules that would prevent nsp16 from making changes.
The immune system would then recognize the invading virus as it was and be able to attack it.
“Yogesh’s work has discovered the 3D structure of a key enzyme in the COVID-19 virus required for its replication and found a pocket there that can be targeted to inhibit this enzyme,” said co-author Professor Robert Hromas.
“This is a fundamental advance in our understanding of the virus,” added Professor Hromas.