The Ebola virus is among the deadliest viruses on the planet, killing up to 90 percent of those infected, and there are no approved vaccines or effective therapies. A study published by Cell Press on May 7 in the Biophysical Journal reveals how the most abundant protein making up the Ebola virus—viral protein 40 (VP40)—allows the virus to leave host cells and spread infection to other cells throughout the human body. The findings could lay the foundation for the development of new drugs and strategies for fighting Ebola infection.
"Little research is available on how the Ebola virus buds from the plasma membrane of human cells," says senior study author Robert Stahelin of Indiana University School of Medicine. "By shedding light on this process, our study will help us to identify potential drug candidates that could interfere with this step in the viral life cycle."
The Ebola virus is made up of seven proteins, including VP40, which plays a key role in enabling the virus to leave host cells and infect other cells in the human body. Past studies have shown that a part of VP40 called the C-terminal domain penetrates the plasma membrane surrounding host cells. But until now, it was not known exactly how VP40 binds to the plasma membrane to allow the virus to escape host cells.