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Published on : Nov 10, 2017

Modern computation models prove to be promising in the search for novel therapies for deadly HIV virus. A process called ‘budding’ plays a key role in the proliferation of HIV virus inside the body, which is characterized by encapsulating viral proteins and genomic dimers using host cell membranes to propagate itself, thereby infecting more healthy cells. Scientists world over have been trying to understand the viral replication process by taking an insight into HIV protein complex, known as Gag protein. However, their understanding remain largely constrained by the lack of sufficiently clear picture of the HIV complex.

A team of scientists from the University of Chicago, Illinois, supported by several scholars, have demonstrated the use of a coarse-grained (CG) computational model to simulate Gag protein and study the molecular details of the multimerization process that promotes viral replication.

Computational Model High-density Mapping Shed Light on Gag Protein Functioning

The study of the molecular process was supported by lab experiments at the National Institutes of Health and Janelia Research Campus, the research center of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, U.S. The findings are detailed in the paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on November, 2017.  

Scientists used CG model to study the molecular process of the Gag polyprotein and the viral RNA by arriving at the most favorable configurations, with the help of a high-density mapping technology, known as spt-PALM. The team found that viral RNA and the host cell membrane plays a key determinant of promoting Gag multimerization. Using the technique, researchers could obtain the missing parts of the Gag complex to understand the budding process in the propagation of HIV.

The results will offer ways—drugs and therapies—to disrupt the viral replication by interrupting the budding process, believe the researchers. Next, they are planning to study the structures of the Gag proteins in the virus capsule after the process of budding.