The carp virus that taught researchers about


image: Ten years of research on a carp virus has uncovered new perspectives on the mechanisms of action of cellular proteins involved in serious pathologies.
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Credit: ©Dan Nacu

The team of Prof. Alain Vanderplasschen, virologist and immunologist at the University of Liège, has published an article in the journal Nucleic Acids Researchreporting ten years of research on how a carp virus has been using a protein domain called Zalpha (Zα) to inhibit the defense mechanisms of the host cell. Importantly, this discovery has consequences on our understanding of the functions of important Zα domain containing proteins of the immune system.

One of the fascinating aspects of scientific research is certainly the serendipity that comes with it, which is something the team of Prof. Alain Vanderplasschen, virologist and immunologist at the FARAH (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine) of the University of Liège can only agree with. His team of him has just published in the prestigious journal Nucleic Acids Research(1) the results of ten years of research on the study of an original protein of a carp virus.

“This scientific project began more than ten years ago when researchers in Lisbon discovered that a carp virus – the Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 or CyHV-3 – had stolen a cellular gene coding for a protein domain called Zα during the course of evolution. It’s a virus that we know very well here at the University of Liège because we have been studying it for many years.” explains Alain Vanderplasschen.

The Zα domain allows proteins that possess it to recognize double-stranded DNA or RNA in a rare conformation different from that described by Watson and Crick in 1953. In fact, the Zα domain specifically recognizes nucleic acids when the double helix exhibits a left-handed conformation instead of a right-handed conformation. This Zα domain is found in important proteins of the immune system of many animals including humans. These proteins are involved in important and diverse pathological processes such as cancers, genetic diseases and autoimmune diseases.. By studying the functions of the Zα domain of the carp virus, we discovered that it possesses properties that were previously unknown for the domains of cellular proteins” says Alain Vanderplasschen. Remarkably, by genetically engineering the Zα domain of the virus into the Zα domains of cellular proteins from various animal species and humans, the researchers found that the new properties discovered for the Zα of the carp virus were present in some cellular proteins. This study, conducted by researchers from ULiège and published today, broadens the functional diversity of Zα domains and stimulates new hypotheses concerning the mechanisms of action of proteins containing Zα domains. It is a discovery that opens new perspectives on the mechanisms of action of Zα domain-containing proteins involved in serious pathologies.

Contact

Alain Vanderplaschen

Scientific reference

Mamadou Amadou Diallo1 Sebastien Pirotte1 Yunlong Hu1 Lea Morvan1 ,Krzysztof Rakus1.2 Nicolas M. Suarez3 Lee PoTsang1.4 Hisao Saneyoshi5 Yan Xu5 Andrew J. Davison3 Peter Tompa6 Joel L. Sussman7 and Alain Vanderplasschen1 , A fish herpesvirus highlights functional diversities among Zα domains related to phase separation induction and A-to-Z conversionNucleic Acids Research, 2022 1-25, doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkac761

Research organizations

1Department of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Immunology-Vaccinology, University of Liège, Liège B-4000, Belgium
2Department of Evolutionary Immunology, Institute of Zoology and Biomedical Research, Faculty of Biology, Jagiellonian University, Krakow 30387, Poland,
3MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research,
Glasgow G61 1QH, United Kingdom,
4Department of Aquaculture, National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung 202, Taiwan,
5Department of Medical Sciences, Division of Chemistry, University of Miyazaki, Miyazaki 889-1692, Japan,
6VIB-VUB Center for Structural Biology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussel B-1050, Belgium and
7Department of Chemical and Structural Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 7610001, Israel


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