A method for inhibiting the ability of Hepatitis C virus to hijack cellular machinery and therefore spread is reported online this week in Nature Chemical Biology. The work could prove a promising strategy for treating viral infections.
The RNA genome of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) harbors a site called the IRES that is recognized by host ribosomes and is needed for translation of the RNA into viral proteins. A subdomain of the IRES is the target for a class of compounds that blocks replication of the virus. By using fluorescent labeling, guided by the three-dimensional structure of the viral RNA, Thomas Hermann and colleagues found that these inhibitors work by changing the conformation of the IRES such that the RNA is removed from the ribosome.
Inhibiting the ability of HCV and other viruses to hijack the cellular machinery is a promising strategy for treating viral infections.