Monoclonal antibodies point to Achilles’ heel in picornavirus capsid

by Mihnea Bostina

Picornaviruses are small, icosahedral, nonenveloped, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses that form one of the largest and most important viral families. Numerous Picornaviridae members pose serious health or agricultural threats, causing diseases such as poliomyelitis, hepatitis A, or foot-and-mouth disease. The antigenic characterization of picornavirus capsids plays an important role in understanding the mechanism of viral neutralization and the conformational changes associated with genome release, and it can point to regions which can be targeted by small-molecule compounds to be developed as antiviral inhibitors. In a recent study, Cao and colleagues applied this strategy to hepatitis A virus (HAV) and used cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to characterize a well-conserved antigenic site recognized by several monoclonal antibodies. They further used computational approaches to identify a small-molecule drug with a strong inhibitory effect on cell attachment.

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