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Researchers Find Clues To Flu's Mechanism

Update Date: Aug 01, 2014 12:25 PM EDT

A flu virus acts like a Trojan horse as it attacks and infects host cells, a new study has found. 

The study provides a clearer view of the well-hidden mechanism involved. 

The study found the path taken by hemagglutinin - a glycoprotein that rides the surface of the influenza virus - as it releases fusion peptides that ultimately invade host cell. 

Researchers applied protein-folding algorithms to analyze how hemagglutinin reconfigures itself as it infects a cell.

Hemagglutinin is completely folded at the start of the process of interest to researchers who study viral infection, Ma said in the press release. "It may be the only case known to human beings where a protein starts at a fixed point and literally completely refolds," he said.

The study added that the influenza hemagglutinin protein may take two paths as it reconfigures while attaching a virus to a host cell. In one path it can send all its fusion peptides to the host and in the other it can split them between the host and the virus. Researchers aim to identify a point during reconfiguration at which drugs could inactivate the peptides. 

The discovery is detailed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 

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