UC Riverside Researchers Help Identify Pivotal Protein Linked to Coronavirus

UC Riverside Researchers Help Identify Pivotal Protein Linked to Coronavirus

News Staff

A team that includes UC Riverside researchers has identified a protein in a virus from the previous decade that might prove beneficial in developing a vaccine to combat novel coronavirus, according to the university.

During studies, the scientists isolated a protein designated “Nsp15” from the severe acute respiratory syndrome — SARS — outbreak of 2003 that could be useful in testing for vaccines intended to prevent or reduce the threat of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

The research was a combined project of the UC Riverside Biomedical Sciences lab, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

“Nsp15 is conserved among coronaviruses and is essential in their lifecycle and virulence,” said Andrzej Joachimiak, a fellow at the Argonne National Laboratory. “Initially, Nsp15 was thought to directly participate in viral replication, but more recently, it was proposed to help the virus replicate possibly by interfering with the host’s immune response.”

The researchers conducted genomic mapping of the SARS pathogen using 3D visualization, and said further unraveling the Nsp15 composition should offer clues as to what immunological tools might work best in halting the coronavirus strain.

“The Nsp15 protein has been investigated in SARS as a novel target for new drug development, but that never went very far because the SARS epidemic went away, and all new drug development ended,” said Karla Satchell, a professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern. “Some inhibitors were identified but never developed into drugs. The inhibitors that were developed for SARS now could be tested against this protein.”

The process remains in the early stages, with mapping of other proteins still underway, according to the researchers.

According to the World Health Organization, coronavirus has claimed more than 3,000 lives, the vast majority in China, where it was first detected. Health officials have identified roughly 88,000 infections globally.

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