Coronavirus hides itself by mimicking immune proteins
Coronavirus hides itself by mimicking immune proteins. The latest research has found that the coronavirus is a master of imitation, it can reproduce the host’s immune protein to keep it invisible and promote infection.
Color scanning electron micrograph of VERO E6 cells (blue) severely infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (orange). Image source: NIAID
Imitation is the highest form of flattery. In nature, it also has practical uses. Many plants and animals use imitation to deceive prey and predators, but when viruses use similar strategies, imitation can be fatal.
The virus uses a series of subtle and constantly changing strategies to evade detection by the immune system. One method is to mimic human immune proteins, such as cytokines, chemokines and their receptors, which are immune responses in human life. Plays a vital role. This allows them to infect the host more easily and not be discovered by the host.
Sagi Shapira, assistant professor of systems biology at Columbia University’s Vagelos College and College of Surgeons, said: “In viruses, imitation is a more common strategy than we think.” “Regardless of the size of the viral genome, what the virus is like. Replication, whether the virus infects bacteria, plants, insects or humans, this strategy is being used by various viruses.”
Shapira’s research team published a new work in the journal Cell Systems, which shows that coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2 are also good at it. In severe cases of COVID-19, it mimics human immune proteins. .
The team used a powerful computer and a program similar to 3D facial recognition software to match viral proteins with their immune protein mimics, scanned more than 7,000 viruses and more than 4,000 hosts, and found 6 million examples of virus mimics.
Although this highlights the universality of this phenomenon, the research team was surprised to find that certain virus families (such as papillomavirus and retrovirus) are used less frequently than others. On the other hand, the coronavirus family exhibits a high degree of diversification and structural heterogeneity in the human proteins they mimic, and more than 150 protein examples have been identified in the current study alone.
Interestingly, these proteins include many complements that control blood clotting or activate plasma proteins. Complement can help target pathogens and cause inflammation.
Shapira said: “We believe that by mimicking the body’s complement and coagulation proteins, the coronavirus may cause these systems to become overactive and lead to the pathological conditions we observe in infected patients.”
In another paper published in Nature Medicine, Columbia researchers found evidence that the function and genetic disorders of complement and coagulation proteins are related to the severity of COVID-19. They found that people with macular degeneration (related to enhanced complement activation) are more likely to die from COVID-19. In COVID-19 patients, complement and coagulation genes are more active, while those with certain mutations in complement and coagulation genes are more likely to die from COVID-19. COVID-19 led to hospitalization.
Since the paper was first published in a preprint this spring, other researchers have also found an association between complement and the severity of COVID, and have begun clinical trials of some complement inhibitors. Shapira said that research on the function and mimicry of viral proteins shows that understanding the underlying virus biology can be used as a way to understand how viruses cause disease and the associated risks.
Shapira said: “Viruses have figured out how to use their hosts.” “By studying viruses, we can not only reveal the basic principles of biology, but also how they interfere with cell homeostasis and cause pathological responses. Hopefully, one day we may. Can use this knowledge to fight back.”
“In addition to COVID-19, we are collecting information on how the proteins of various viruses on the earth work, which may be the basis for research in the fields of medicine and agriculture.”