Scientists uncover the structure of the main pneumonia enzyme, The team has found a potential new way to deactivate the syncytial respiration virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (HMPV) after the structure of one of its main components has clarified.

RSV and HMPV are two related viruses that cause severe and life-threatening respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis in premature babies and infants, parents and those who have a weak immune system.

According to UNICEF, 2018 pneumonia kills children every 39 seconds worldwide, but there is no effective vaccine or antiviral therapy to fight it.

When they infect human cells, HMPV and RSV instruct cell devices to make copies.

To begin the process, certain proteins released from viruses interact with each other to form various protein complexes.

In cryo-electron microscopy, sophisticated electron microscopy used to image samples that a frozen to the sub-nanometer range which is about ten times smaller than human DNA strands or one million times smaller than the width of human hair.

The NTU image captures the enzyme with a resolution of 3.7 angstroms or 0.37 nanometers. Based on this two-dimensional image, the team created a three-dimensional computer model of the molecular structure of L: P. protein.

Analysis of these models reveals important molecular interaction sites that offer new targets for the design of antiviral molecules against both viruses.

Dr. Lescar, the principal investigator at NTU’s Structural Biology Institute, said that with this detailed structural knowledge, researchers can now hope to develop inhibitors that interfere with the enzymatic activity of the L: P HPMV protein and block infection by viruses.

We hope that our work will help pharmaceutical and academic researchers around the world develop therapies that needed for difficult viral infections that often lead to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

Because the HMPV protein they studied unchanged by evolution and is very like RSV and other types of viruses from the Pneumorivridae family, scientists hope that inhibitors developed against HPMV will also target a variety of viruses that can affect viruses involved in respiratory diseases, and informs a similar search for other viral diseases.