• All viruses are composed of a genome and an encapsulating protein. The genome carries the virus’ genetic information and the capsid protein protects the genome from degrading enzymes inside the host cell.
  • A critical step in viral replication is the assembly of the capsid protein; specifically, the process of folding the protein string around the viral genome. This process has remained a mystery to scientists because the virus does not carry any enzymes to aid in the process.
  • The researchers found a code hidden within the virus genome which allows the RNA to act as an enzyme. The code causes the RNA to fold into a “secondary structure”, which creates a series of packaging signals to direct the folding of the protein around the genome. This discovery may lead to a new class of anti-viral drugs that disrupt the packaging signals, thus preventing assembly and replication.

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