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Dr. Eleonora SchönherrPresse- & ÖffentlichkeitsarbeitPhone: +49 40 42818-269
Mail: presse(at)bnitm.de

Julia HäberleinPresse- & ÖffentlichkeitsarbeitPhone: +49 40 42818-264
Mail: presse(at)bnitm.de

Atomic Structure of an Essential Enzyme from Arena and Hanta Viruses

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.

Atomic structure of the two essential parts of the ”cap-stealing“ enzyme of Arena and Hanta viruses (shown as cartoon model): On the left the part assumed to bind a cap of the host-cell RNA, and on the right the part cleaving off the cap from the RNA strand. An RNA molecule has been modelled into the structure (shown as sticks).
Atomic structure of the two essential parts of the ”cap-stealing“ enzyme of Arena and Hanta viruses (shown as cartoon model): On the left the part assumed to bind a cap of the host-cell RNA, and on the right the part cleaving off the cap from the RNA strand. An RNA molecule has been modelled into the structure (shown as sticks).

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.


Fernández-García Y. et al., PLoS Pathog 2016, 12:e1005635

Rosenthal M. et al., PLoS Pathog 2017, 13:e1006400

Maria Rosenthal, Yaiza Fernández-García, Nadja Gogrefe, Dominik Vogel, Carola Busch, Stephan Günther, Sophia Reindl and external co-operation partners (see publication)