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NEW TECHNIQUE FOR IMAGING STRUCTURE OF VIRUSES AT WISTAR COULD LEAD TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW DRUGS FOR TREATING VIRAL INFECTIONS

 PHILADELPHIA, July 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Researchers at the Wistar Institute have combined electron microscopy with X-ray crystallography to produce new three-dimensional images that reveal the organization of the human adenovirus as well as providing detailed pictures of its atomic structure.
 The adenovirus causes common childhood respiratory ailments, conjunctivitis, and enteric dysentery, the leading cause of infant mortality in Third World countries.
 This new structural approach to imaging the adenovirus, which could lead to new drug strategies for attacking viruses, is being researched in the laboratory of Roger M. Burnett, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the Structural Biology Program at Wistar. The work is reported in the July 7 issue of "EMBO Journal," published by Oxford University.
 "Understanding the individual molecular structures of the viral proteins as well as the structural organization of these atomic components of the adenovirus, is central to understanding their function," according to Phoebe L. Stewart, Ph.D., a research associate in the Structural Biology Program and first author of the paper.
 "We want to map the structure of the virus with the long-term goal of designing drugs to combat infections by interfering with the stability of its structure, and weaken the virus," commented Burnett. This attack on the viral structure of the virus is different from current research of anti-viral drugs for diseases such as AIDS, which focuses on interfering with viral processes in the infected cell.
 To create the new structural images, Stewart, Burnett, and Stephen D. Fuller, Ph.D., at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, combined electron microscopy images with X-ray crystallography images.
 The problem of imaging larger viruses, such as the adenovirus, has been that neither electron microscopy nor X-ray crystallography alone gives complete information. While X-ray crystallography provides high- resolution details of the atomic structure of proteins, electron microscopy provides complementary structural information on their organization, although at a lower level of detail.
 The new approach subtracts out the known structure of the protein forming the outer shell of the virus and thus overcomes the limitations of electron microscopy. Subtracting pulls out details previously masked by these larger proteins, enabling scientists to "see" the glue holding together the protein shell surrounding the core of the adenovirus particle.
 The Wistar Institute is one of the oldest independent institutions in the United States devoted to biomedical research and training. Through study at the cellular and molecular level of viral, degenerative, autoimmune and malignant diseases, Wistar scientists work toward the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of these diseases. Wistar is one of 14 U.S. research institutions that have been designated Basic Science Cancer Centers by the National Institutes of Health.
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 -0- 7/6/93
 /CONTACT: Martha Lubell of the Wistar Institute, 215-898-3716/


CO: The Wistar Institute ST: Pennsylvania IN: MTC SU:

JM-MK -- PH011 -- 8580 07/06/93 11:21 EDT
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Date:Jul 6, 1993
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