Designer DNA-binding proteins to combat viral infections in agriculture and medicine

February 24, 2016, Okayama University

Designer DNA-binding proteins to combat viral infections in agriculture and medicine
Application of Artificial DNA-Binding Proteins
"Having trained as a chemist, in the early days of my research career I wanted to find ways of treating cancer based on knowledge of organic chemistry," says Takashi Sera, Professor at Department of Bioscience and Biotechnology. "But I soon realized that chemical molecules are hard and too rigid for such purposes. That is when I decided to focus on the use of proteins."

And the outcome of this shift in strategy was the development of unique artificial DNA-binding proteins to prevent the proliferation of viruses in both plants and for treating cancer in humans. Specifically, Sera designs DNA-binding proteins to bond to a target virus 1000 times more strongly than the replication protein of the virus itself. Such blocking of bonding between a virus and its own replication prevents the spread of the virus.

Important agricultural applications of DNA-binding proteins for producing plants resistant to include making virus-resistant cassava—a major crop and source of food for millions of people in Africa and Asia. Sera and colleagues have already produced proteins for tomatoes and are currently working on wheat. "The critical point about using DNA-binding proteins for antiviral strategies is that they are expected to be free of side effects," explains Sera. "The reason is because our proteins are produced by modifying natural proteins that already exist in everyday vegetables and meats." Sera and his group have also made tests on beet severe curly top —spread by so-called beet leafhoppers—that affects crops in western United States.

Sera has also come closer to realizing his dream of treating human cancer. "We are testing our approach for treating human papillomavirus," explains Sera. "This is strongly linked with cervical . Side effect free treatment is particularly important for treating human diseases."

Two Approaches to Prevention of Virus Replication with Artificial DNA-Binding Protein
Designer DNA-binding proteins to combat viral infections in agriculture and medicine
Approach #1: Virus-Resistant Plant using Artificial DNA-Binding Protein
Approach #2: Protein-Based Antiviral Drug using Artificial Nuclease

Explore further: Hepatitis virus-like particles as potential cancer treatment

More information: Takashi Mino et al. Gene- and Protein-Delivered Zinc Finger–Staphylococcal Nuclease Hybrid for Inhibition of DNA Replication of Human Papillomavirus, PLoS ONE (2013). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056633

Takashi Mino et al. Cell-permeable artificial zinc-finger proteins as potent antiviral drugs for human papillomaviruses, Archives of Virology (2008). DOI: 10.1007/s00705-008-0125-7

K. Tachikawa et al. Regulation of the endogenous VEGF-A gene by exogenous designed regulatory proteins, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2004). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0406473101

Rational design of artificial zinc-finger proteins using a nondegenerate recognition code table. Biochemistry. 2002 Jun 4;41(22):7074-81.

Inhibition of virus DNA replication by artificial zinc finger proteins. J Virol. 2005 Feb;79(4):2614-9.

Related Stories

Hepatitis virus-like particles as potential cancer treatment

February 3, 2016

UC Davis researchers have developed a way to use the empty shell of a Hepatitis E virus to carry vaccines or drugs into the body. The technique has been tested in rodents as a way to target breast cancer, and is available ...

Sendai virus defends against a threat

October 15, 2015

A research group at Hiroshima University demonstrated the mechanism by which the Sendai virus (SeV) escapes the host immune system. The researchers examined the crystal structure of the complex of SeV C protein and transcription ...

Human genomic pathways to bronchitis virus therapy

November 18, 2015

Viral replication and spread throughout a host organism employs many proteins, but the process is not very well understood. Scientists at A*STAR have led a collaborative study to learn which host factors play a key role in ...

Recommended for you

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...


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.