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RNA consists of chains of building blocks very similar to the genetic storage moiety DNA but is on one hand structurally more flexible and functionally more versatile and on the other much less stable. In order to protect it from unwarranted degradation, the first building block of certain RNA molecules, the messenger RNA, contains a chemical modification called ”cap“. Viruses can survive in the body only when their own messenger RNAs also contain this cap structure.
Some viruses such as Influenza, Arena and Hanta viruses, which cannot produce these caps, force infected cells to produce an enzyme that cuts caps from the RNA of the cell and transfers it to the virus’ own RNA. We have analysed the atomic structure of this protein from Lassa-like Arena and Hanta viruses by X-ray crystal-lography, in order to try to design tailored inhibitors. The inhibition of such ”cap thieves“ is considered a promising approach to novel antiviral compounds.
Maria Rosenthal, Yaiza Fernández-García, Nadja Gogrefe, Dominik Vogel, Carola Busch, Stephan Günther, Sophia Reindl and external co-operation partners (see publication)