Researchers have taken a step closer to developing a vaccine for a common childhood disease thanks to an atomic-level snapshot of a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) protein bound to a human antibody.
The findings, by scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, define the vulnerable shape of a critical RSV component called the fusion glycoprotein.
The NIAID scientists determined the fusion glycoprotein's shape as it appears before its interaction with human cells. It is this pre-fusion shape that is most vulnerable to neutralizing antibodies. Progress toward an RSV vaccine has been stalled in part because researchers did not previously know about a highly vulnerable site at the tip of the pre-fusion form of the fusion glycoprotein. Now that the structure has been solved and the site of antibody vulnerability revealed, scientists can use the new structural information to design vaccines capable of eliciting potent antibodies aimed at the target on top of the pre-fusion state of the glycoprotein.
JS McLellan et al. Structure of RSV fusion glycoprotein trimer bound to a prefusion-specific neutralizing antibody. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1234914 (2013).
NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is available for comment. NIAID researchers Barney S. Graham, M.D., Ph.D, and Peter D. Kwong, Ph.D., NIAID Vaccine Research Center, are also available to comment on their paper.