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Ebola gatekeeper protein identified.

Ebola relies on a molecular "inside man" to sneak into cells.

Mice lacking the virus's accomplice, a protein called NPC1, are completely protected from Ebola infection, scientists report online May 26 in mBio. Designing drugs that target NPC1 could potentially stop Ebola from breaking and entering into human cells, study coauthor Kartik Chandran and colleagues suggest.

In 2011, Chandran, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and others identified NPC1 as Ebola's potential partner in crime (SN Online: 8/24/11). The protein rests in cell membranes and helps the virus slip out of lysosomes, a cell's garbage sacs, and into the cytoplasm. Once on the loose inside a host cell, Ebola can hijack the molecular tools it needs to multiply.

But scientists didn't know just how crucial NPC1 was for Ebola's dirty work. So Chandran and colleagues injected mice missing NPC1 with a mouse version of the virus. NPC1-free mice fended off Ebola completely--they showed no signs of the disease. Mice with the protein weren't so lucky: They died within nine days of the injection.

NPC1 typically transports cholesterol through a cell; without the protein, people can develop dementia. But the study's authors think Ebola patients could tolerate an NPC1-blocking drug because treatments would be brief.

Caption: The Ebola virus hijacks a protein called NPC1 to invade a host cell, as seen in this illustration.


Please note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.

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Author:Rosen, Meghan
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 27, 2015
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