Uukuniemi virus helps to explain infection mechanism of bunyaviruses

Feb 15, 2008

The Uukuniemi virus is the first bunyavirus whose structure researchers have been able to determine. Together with more detailed studies of the viral membrane proteins, knowledge of the Uukuniemi virus may provide a basis for development of drugs for treating bunyavirus diseases, such as hemorrhagic fever and encephalitis.

A researcher group comprising Juha Huiskonen from the University of Helsinki and structural biologists from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and the Max Planck Biochemistry Institute in Münich has solved the three-dimensional structure of the Uukuniemi virus. The Uukuniemi virus is the first bunyavirus whose structure researchers have been able to determine. Together with more detailed studies of the viral membrane proteins, knowledge of the Uukuniemi virus may provide a basis for development of drugs for treating bunyavirus diseases, such as hemorrhagic fever and encephalitis.

The findings were published in PNAS on 12 February, 2008.

The researchers solved the three-dimensional structure of the virus particle, which is only 0.0001 mm in diameter, using electron tomography and computational methods. The newly determined virus structure also serves as a model for the other bunyaviruses. Recent research surprisingly revealed that the viral membrane proteins protruding as spikes from the Uukuniemi virus surface changed their shape in an acidic environment. This phenomenon is reminiscent of the mechanism whereby influenza and dengue viruses enter their host cells. The observation helps to explain how bunyaviruses infect their host cells.

The Uukuniemi virus was first isolated in the village of Uukuniemi, Finland in the early ’60s. Since then, it has proven to be an excellent model virus. Not being a human pathogen, the Uukuniemi virus is safe to work with, and yet it is very similar to many pathogenic bunyaviruses.

The Bunyaviridae viral family comprises more than 300 members and they are found worldwide. Many members of the family cause serious disease, such as hemorrhagic fever and encephalitis, for which no vaccines are available yet. Most of the bunyaviruses are transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks. The exception is hantaviruses, which belong to the Bunyaviridae family, and which are spread by voles and other rodents.

Source: University of Helsinki

Explore further: Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

Related Stories

A tale of two (soil) cities

35 minutes ago

As we walk along a forest path, the soil beneath our feet seems like a uniform substance. However, it is an intricate network of soil particles, pores, minerals, soil microbes, and more. It is awash in variety.

Recommended for you

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

6 hours ago

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

The math of shark skin

14 hours ago

"Sharks are almost perfectly evolved animals. We can learn a lot from studying them," says Emory mathematician Alessandro Veneziani.

Cuban, US scientists bond over big sharks

18 hours ago

Somewhere in the North Atlantic right now, a longfin mako shark—a cousin of the storied great white—is cruising around, oblivious to the yellow satellite tag on its dorsal fin.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.