Study reveals how some viruses and cancer hijack protein-making machinery

An illustration of a human cell.
In this illustration, sub-units of a ribosome are in color.

Yale researchers have visualized the structure of a peculiar complex within a cell that plays a role in how the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and some cancer-causing genes initiate protein synthesis by the ribosome, the cell’s protein-making factory.

The research, conducted by Ivan Lomakin and colleagues in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Thomas A. Steitz, Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, shows the crystal structure of a small subunit of the ribosome, the cell’s protein-making machinery. The subunit interacts with two proteins linked to cancer, suggesting an alternative way to initiate protein synthesis and bypass cellular defense against the HCV infection and some other diseases.

The research, supported by Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Institutes of Health and the Yale Liver Center, was published in the July 18 issue of the journal Cell Reports.

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