September 22, 2015

Keep your coat on, virus!

A compound acting on serotonin receptors delays a critical step during reovirus cell entry, reducing viral infectivity.

by Sanjay Mishra

(courtesy of Terence Dermody)
(courtesy of Terence Dermody)

Viral infections are a major cause of illness and death. Understanding how viruses gain access to the interior of cells may reveal new targets for antiviral drugs and enhance vaccine design.

Reoviruses infect most mammalian species but seldom cause disease in humans. Bernardo Mainou, Ph.D., working in the laboratory of Terence Dermody, M.D., previously identified compounds including 5-NT, a serotonin receptor agonist, that inhibit reovirus infection.

Now, in a study published this month in the Journal of Virology, Mainou and colleagues show that 5-NT blocks a critical step during reovirus cell entry. While 5-NT did not affect the attachment of reovirus to host cells, it delayed the uncoating of the virus in the endocytic pathway.

Mainou also showed that 5-NT decreases infectivity of the unrelated chikungunya alphavirus and, in collaboration with Mark Denison, M.D., mouse hepatitis coronavirus. Thus, serotonin receptor signaling is an important regulator of diverse viral infections, which illuminates a new, potentially broad-spectrum target for antiviral drug development.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants HL007751, AI801082, AI095202, AI108102, AI109680, AI032539) and by the Elizabeth B. Lamb Center for Pediatric Research.

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