Science for Health
Comparative genome analysis suggests that vertebrates and retroviruses have co-existed for tens of millions of years. It is thus unsurprising that a degree of coevolution has taken place, resulting in the development of specific defence mechanisms by the host, and means to overcome such defences by the virus. Understanding such natural anti-viral genes might suggest novel means of combating retroviral infection.
The primate TRIM5α genes provide an example of such a host defence gene. They can interact with the polymerised viral capsid proteins present on infecting retroviruses. One key question in their study concerns the specificity of target recognition. On the one hand, they are capable of recognising and restricting a wide range of viruses. However, each TRIM5α restricts a different panel of viruses. We are attempting to define the sequences responsible for recognition of different viruses and to describe the structures with which they interact. We anticipate that these studies will shed new light on the early stages of retrovirus replication and the control of cross-species infection.
Potential restriction factor binding pocket in the N-terminal domain of the MLV CA protein. Amino acids that can affect viral tropism are highlighted.
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