30 july 2020

LEAD – A team of international researchers has identified a potential weakness of the coronavirus. It is an enzyme that appears to be essential for the spread of the virus in the body. Researchers at the Leiden University Medical Center have also made an important contribution to the research.

It is an enzyme that is essential for the processing of viral proteins and the formation of new virus particles in human cells. However, this is not all. According to the researchers, it may also reduce the human immune response to the virus. This makes it easier for the virus to run its course.

The researchers saw a decrease in virus spread and an increasing immune response directed against the virus after they used an inhibitor of the enzyme in infected cells. This causes the researchers to kill two birds with one stone. “Stopping virus spreading while strengthening the human immune system,” said Ivan Đikić, the study’s leader.

Role of LUMC
Within the LUMC, researchers from the Department of Cell and Chemical Biology contributed to this discovery. “We have supplied reagents that have played a crucial role in the study of this essential coronavirus enzyme,” says assistant professor Gerbrand van der Heden van Noort. “We copy small proteins and can also make small changes to these proteins, so that they trigger a certain signal.” The enzyme studied interacts with the chemically made proteins. In this way, researchers can learn exactly how the corona enzyme works and what its role is in the infection. Ultimately, the researchers hope to find out how this infection can be inhibited.

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