Using supercomputing resources, researchers at the University of Delaware in collaboration with researchers at Indiana University have obtained new understanding of the hepatitis B virus. And, have also learned of the spiky ball that encloses the genetic blueprint of the virus.
The research published online, ahead of its print version, in the journal ACS Chemical Biology gives insights into how the capsid assembles itself. Meanwhile, capsid is a protein shell that save the blueprint and also drives the delivery of protein shell to infect a host cell.
Scientists at the University of Delaware performed computer simulations to investigate the effects of a mutation that slows the assembly process. Following the study, the researchers together with collaborators revealed that the spike – region of the protein that contains the mutation – can communicate with the area of the protein that links with other subunits to put together the capsid. The study evidenced that a change in shape of the capsid protein converted it into ‘on’ state for assembly.
Knowledge of Capsid important for Drug Discovery for Hepatitis B
Meanwhile, scientists believe that the knowledge of capsid is important to develop drugs for the treatment of hepatitis B – a life-threatening and incurable disease that affects more than 250 million across the world.
“Structurally, the capsid appears like a spiky ball, with 120 protein dimers that come together to form it. And, it each dimer contains a spike,” stated the co-author of the paper who is Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware.
According to medical knowledge, the capsid is the key to the virus infection cycle. If the assembly process could be disrupted, the virus wouldn’t be able to produce its own infectious copies.