Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Tick Block

Tick-borne encephalitis virus targets host cell enzyme vital for protein production

02 November 2019

Tick Block

Ticks are parasites that prey on the legs of carefree woodland frolickers, among other creatures, and can carry diseases. One of these is the virus tick-borne encephalitis, which can have serious impacts. How it interacts with brain cells, where it can wreak havoc, is not well understood. To see how it does damage, researchers compared cells infected with the virus (left, green, 48 hours after infection) with uninfected cells (right). They found that infected cells couldn’t produce RNA (red), an important form of genetic material involved in the fundamental processes of producing proteins according to DNA’s instructions. Digging deeper, they found that only RNA produced by one particular form of RNA-producing protein (RNA polymerase 1) was blocked, showing the virus was targeting this process in particular. Perhaps knowing this will open new options for tackling ticks and the trouble they cause.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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