The identification of cellular receptors that help us understand how adenoviruses infect cells in humans is reported in two papers in Nature Medicine this week. This understanding is crucial for the development of both effective treatments and medical reagents for a diverse range of human illnesses.
Niklas Arnberg and colleagues identified the receptor for adenovirus type 37 (Ad37) ― a major cause of epidemic keratoconjunctivitis ― a type of eye disease ― for which there is no approved antiviral therapy. The receptor is a complex sugar molecule, or glycan, which is present on many glycoproteins. The finding provides a starting point for the development of drugs that can block infection of corneal cells by Ad37, in order to slow the spread of the disease.
In a second paper, Andre Lieber and colleagues report that desmoglein 2 (DSG-2) ― a protein involved in interactions between cells ― is the receptor for Ad3, Ad7, Ad11 and Ad14, adenoviruses causing respiratory infections. The team found that adenovirus binding to DSG-2 caused a transient opening at the site of cell-cell contact, allowing access to other proteins located at the junction. The authors propose that harnessing this property of virus binding to DSG-2 could improve delivery of therapeutic adenoviruses or increase the access of therapeutic antibodies, such as those used in cancer treatments, to proteins located at intercellular junctions.