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Contact: Ellen R. Weiss
eweiss@biophysics.org
240-290-5606
American Institute of Physics

Team uncovers dengue fever virus' molecular secrets

Researchers in Portugal and Brazil present new details on widespread mosquito-borne virus today

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 8 2011) -- Researchers at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal and the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are making major strides toward understanding the life cycle of flaviviruses, which include some of the most virulent human pathogens: yellow fever virus, Dengue virus, and the West Nile Virus, among others.

Today, at the 55th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society in Baltimore, MD, members of the team will report on studies using dengue virus as a model to elucidate the molecular details of the flavivirus life cycle -- work that may lead to new ways to fight Dengue virus infections, for which there are still no treatments and no effective preventative vaccines.

Dengue virus is one of the major causes of viral hemorrhagic fever worldwide, says Ivo Martins, a postdoctoral researcher in the group. About 40 percent of the world's population live in areas where this virus is transmitted. The World Health Organization estimates that 50-100 million people worldwide are infected with Dengue each year, and some 22,000 people die rom the virus -- mostly children.

Dengue virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which are now found throughout the world, including in temperate regions such as the United States and France, where, in 2010, there were several cases of locally transmitted Dengue -- a disease that has been virtually unknown in these countries before.

"The burden that dengue infection (and other flaviviruses) poses on the economy and health systems of affected countries is considerable," says Martins. "Finding a dengue treatment, besides the obvious human health benefits, would thus benefit the economy in those countries immensely."

In Baltimore, Martins will discuss the group's use of biophysical techniques (nuclear magnetic resonance) combined with bioinformatics tools (genome sequence analysis) to elucidate the molecular details of interactions the Dengue virus capsid protein must make in order for it to replicate. In particular, the virus capsid protein must interact with intracellular lipid droplets in order for viral replication to be successful.

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The presentation, "CHARACTERIZATION OF THE INTERACTION OF THE DENGUE VIRUS CAPSID PROTEIN WITH LIPID DROPLETS" by Ivo C. Martins et al is at 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 in Hall C of the Baltimore Convention Center. ABSTRACT: http://tinyurl.com/688en3a

NOTE TO EDITORS: An image is available to accompany this story. Visit URL

IMAGE CAPTION: Figure 1. Studying the dengue virus capsid protein. Gathering several biophysical techniques allows us to have a complete picture of the role of Dengue virus capsid protein (DVCP) in viral RNA encapsidation and assembly in the context of its interaction with lipid membranes.

IMAGE CREDIT: Reporters may freely reproduce this image so long as they include the following credit: Image courtesy of Ivo C. Martins/Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM), Lisbon, Portugal.

This work was funded by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (FCG), Portugal; Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT), Portugal; Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), Brazil; FP7 – International Staff Exchange Scheme (FP7-IRSES), European Union; and FP7 – Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship (FP7-MCIOF), European Union.

MORE MEETING INFORMATION

Each year, the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting brings together more than 6,000 scientists and hosts more than 4,000 poster presentations, 200 exhibits, and more than 20 symposia. The largest meeting of its type in the world, the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting retains its small-meeting flavor through its subgroup meetings, platform sessions, social activities, and committee programs.

QUICK LINKS

Meeting Home Page: http://www.biophysics.org/2011meeting
General Meeting Information: http://www.biophysics.org/GeneralInfo/Overview/tabid/2062/Default.aspx
Search abstracts: http://www.abstractsonline.com/plan/start.aspx?mkey={FEA830A5-24AD-47F3-8E61-FCA29F5FEF34}

PRESS REGISTRATION

The Biophysical Society invites credentialed journalists, freelance reporters working on assignment, and public information officers to attend its Annual Meeting for free. For more information on registering as a member of the press, please contact Ellen Weiss at eweiss@biophysics.org or 240-290-5606. Also see: http://www.biophysics.org/Registration/Press/tabid/2148/Default.aspx

ABOUT THE BIOPHYSICAL SOCIETY

The Biophysical Society, founded in 1956, is a professional, scientific society established to encourage development and dissemination of knowledge in biophysics. The society promotes growth in this expanding field through its annual meeting, monthly journal, and committee and outreach activities. Its over 9,000 members are located throughout the U.S. and the world, where they teach and conduct research in colleges, universities, laboratories, government agencies, and industry. For more information on the society or the 2011 Annual Meeting, visit www.biophysics.org



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