Viral switches share a shape

A hinge in the RNA genome of the virus that causes hepatitis C works like a switch that can be flipped to prevent it from replicating in infected cells. Scientists have discovered that this shape is shared by several other viruses—among them one that kills cancer cells.

That's Seneca Valley virus, which seems harmless to healthy human cells but lethal to cancer stem cells.

"Clearly we'd like to understand it better," said Thomas Hermann, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego.

Hermann's research group has determined the molecular structure of this critical switch in the Seneca Valley virus and found that it matches the L-shaped switch in hepatitis C virus, which his group had previously described.


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