Cryo-Electron Microscope: Covid-19 “caught in the act”

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Analytical Instruments at its best: Covid-19 “Caught in the Act”

The team of Prof. Nenad Ban has discovered with a Cryo-Electron Microscope and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance the Achilles heel of the Coronavirus. They “caught the virus in the act”.

What did they actually discover? Frameshifting is the key: Covid-19 is critically dependent on frameshifting and frameshifting is almost never happening in our body’s cells. The research team was able to capture the ribosomes at the frameshifting site of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome and via Cryo-electron they were able to study this molecular complex. The researchers then followed up on their structural findings with in vitro and in vivo experiments including exploring how this process can be targeted with chemical compounds. They found two compounds reducing viral replication by three to four orders of magnitude. Inhibition of ribosomal frameshifting has a profound effect on viral replication, which paves the way for the development of better compounds for improving treatment. Due to the fact that all coronaviruses depend on this conserved frameshifting mechanism, a drug that targets this process may even be useful to treat infections by more distantly related coronaviruses.

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