Scientists of National Institutes of Health find important pathway that coronaviruses use to exit cells

For the first time, researchers showed that novel coronavirus can exit infected cells through lysosome, an organelle known as the cells’ 'trash compactor'

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NIH CovidScientists at the National Institutes of Health have discovered a pathway that the coronaviruses use to exit cells.

This discovery is expected to provide vital insight in stopping the transmission of the virus— SARS-CoV-2— which causes Covid-19 pandemic. The findings have been published in the journal ‘Cell’.

Researchers showed in the cell studies for the first time that the coronavirus can hijack and exit infected cells through the lysosome, an organelle known as the cells’ ‘trash compactor.’

The lysosome usually destroys viruses and other pathogens before they leave the cells. However, the scientists discovered that the coronavirus deactivates the lysosome’s disease-fighting machinery, allowing it to freely spread throughout the body.

The findings have come at a time when new coronavirus cases are surging worldwide, with related deaths in the United States nearing 225,000.

Researchers have known for some time that viruses enter and infect cells and then use the cell’s protein-making machinery to make multiple copies of themselves before escaping the cell. However, scientists have only a limited understanding of exactly how viruses exit cells.

As per conventional wisdom, most viruses—including hepatitis C, influenza, and West Nile—exit through the so-called biosynthetic secretory pathway.

Central Pathway

It is central pathway that cells use to transport hormones, growth factors, and other materials to their surrounding environment. Scientists have assumed that coronaviruses also use this pathway.

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However, chief of the Laboratory of Host-Pathogen Dynamics at the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Nihal Altan-Bonnet, Ph.D., and her post-doctoral fellow Sourish Ghosh, Ph.D., the study’s main authors, found something different.

The team has exposed coronavirus-infected cells (specifically, mouse hepatitis virus) to certain chemical inhibitors known to block the biosynthetic pathway.
Altan-Bonnet said, “To our shock, these coronaviruses got out of the cells just fine.” Bonnet added: “This was the first clue that maybe coronaviruses were using another pathway.”

In order to find that pathway, scientists designed additional experiments using microscopic imaging and virus-specific markers involving human cells. They discovered that coronaviruses somehow target the lysosomes, which are highly acidic, and congregate there.

(With inputs from The OnLook News Research Bureau)’

Disclaimer: This story including advice/suggestions provides only generic information. It is not at all a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always have a consultation with a specialist or your doctor for more information. The OnLook never claim responsibility for this information.

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