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Progress in pathogenesis of SARS-CoV research

  Following his discovery of a new protein—ORF-3a in SARS-CoV two years ago, Prof. Sun Bing, Principal Investigator in Institut Pasteur of Shanghai and his team further discovered the function of 3a protein as an ion channel regulating SARS-CoV release. The results have been published at the recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (PNAS).

  SARS-CoV has a large single-positive-strand RNA genome that contains 14 ORFS. Some of these ORFS encode viral structural proteins, such as spike protein, membrane protein, small envelope protein and nucleocapsid protein. These proteins play very important roles in viral infection and replication. However, the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV is still unclear, so research on functions of viral proteins has important significance to understand pathogenesis and develop anti-virals.

  After nearly 2 years of study on the function of 3a protein, Prof. Sun’s team found out that 3a forms a potassium-sensitive ion channel and regulates virus release. Researchers are trying to illuminate the mechanisms of 3a protein in regulating virus release and in pathogenesis of SARS-CoV infection, and to explore the possibility of 3a as a target for drugs against SARS-CoV. In the meantime, a platform for studying ion channels will be applied for other viruses.

  This work of Prof. Sun Bing’s team has involved the Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology; the Max Planck Guest Laboratory; the Institute of Neuroscience, Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences; the Department of Microbiology of the University of Hong Kong and Queen Mary Hospital.

  This work was supported by the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality, a National Key Basic Research Program of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, an Outstanding Young Scientist grant of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Sino-German Center on SARS Project, and an E-Institute of Shanghai Universities Immunology Division grant.

  “Severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus 3a protein forms an ion channel and modulates virus release”, PNAS, August 15, 2006, vol. 103, no. 33, Pages 12540–12545

  Wei Lu*†‡§, Bo-Jian Zheng§¶, Ke Xu*†, Wolfgang Schwarz‡_, Lanying Du¶, Charlotte K. L. Wong¶, Jiadong Chen**, Shuming Duan**, Vincent Deubel*, and Bing Sun*†,††

  *Laboratory of Molecular Virology, Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 225 South Chongqing Road, Shanghai 200025,China;

  †Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology, Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, ‡Max Planck Guest Laboratory, and **Shanghai Instituteof Neuroscience, Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 320 Yueyang Road, Shanghai 200031, China;

  ¶Department of Microbiology, University of Hong Kong and Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, China; and _Max Planck Institute for Biophysics,Max-von-Laue-Strasse 3, 60438 Frankfurt_M, Germany

  Communicated by Zhu Chen, Shanghai Second Medical University, Shanghai, China, June 30, 2006 (received for review June 22, 2006)  

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