Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered the molecular mechanism by which the deadly Ebola virus assembles, providing potential new drug targets. Surprisingly, the study showed that the same molecule that assembles and releases new viruses also rearranges itself into different shapes, with each shape controlling a different step of the virus's life cycle.
"Like a 'Transformer', this protein of the Ebola virus adopts different shapes for different functions," said Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbial Science at TSRI. "It revises a central dogma of molecular biology—that a protein molecule has one shape that predestines one biological function."
The research was published today in the peer-reviewed journal Cell.
Ebola virus graphic by Russell Kightley Media