Finding on viruses opens drug vistas
A new study led by researchers
at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Swansea University Medical
School furthers our knowledge of viruses - in the sea and on land - and their
potential to cause life-threatening illnesses. Their findings, which examine
newly-identified genes carried by mysterious ‘giant’ viruses, could represent
potential new drug targets for giant viruses linked to human diseases.
An international team of researchers searched more than 8,000 virus genomes and found that many newly-discovered giant viruses contain multiple genes for a type of enzyme called cytochrome P450. P450 enzymes are common in animals, plants and bacteria, but finding them in new viruses is unexpected. In animals, P450 enzymes metabolize drugs, make steroid hormones, and defend against pollutants.Finding P450 genes and enzymes in diverse viruses may help in understanding the origin of the giant viruses themselves.Increasingly, giant viruses are being found in the oceans.