Researchers of the Miguel Hernández University (UMH) of Elche They have coordinated a study that reveals the antiviral function of proteins that have been unknown until now. The results obtained are of special relevance to the aquaculture sector. The work, published in the magazine Scientific Reports, indicates that the C-reactive proteins of the zebrafish, stop the infection of the virus called “rabdovirus of the spring viraemia of the carp”.

The results of the study would allow the design of efficient antiviral drugs for the treatment of these infections in fish, a possible industrial application for the aquaculture sector. In turn, an interesting question arises as to whether these mechanisms also occur in more evolved vertebrates, which would allow extrapolating these therapeutic strategies to other animal species.

According to the researchers of the UMH responsible for the study, Melissa Belló and Alberto FalcóUntil recently, the antiviral capacity of C-reactive proteins (CRPs) was unknown. The new study, carried out in the Institute of Research, Development and Innovation in Sanitary Biotechnology of Elche (IDiBE), demonstrates that the different forms of the zebrafish CRP protein impede certain cellular processes and interrupt the entry of the rhabdovirus.

Autophagy is the process by which cells dispose of their “garbage,” the researchers explain, a pathway that some viruses use to cross the membrane and infect the cell. By interacting with cholesterol in the cell membrane, CRP proteins reduce the pH or acidity of the parts of the cell that are responsible for its digestion, lysosomes. This interrupts autophagy and blocks the path of substances into and out of the cell to prevent these viruses from passing.

The team of the UMH points out that, in mammals, C-reactive proteins are produced in the liver against viral and, mainly, bacterial infections. For this reason, this protein is used to detect inflammatory processes in response to infections. CRPs can recognize pathogens, activate the immune system, and also bind to your cells. Some studies suggest that CRP proteins could be “ancestral antibodies”, since they can be found in lower species on the evolutionary scale, even in invertebrates.

Previous findings on the antiviral function of these molecules motivated the researcher of the IDiBE Alberto Falcó (also a teaching collaborator in the Department of Pharmacology, Pediatrics and Organic Chemistry) to investigate the operation of the CRP, for which it uses the zebrafish as an animal model. In addition to Belló and Falcó, researchers have participated in the study Luis Perezalso from IDiBE; Patricia Pereiro and Beatriz Novoa of the CSIC Institute for Marine Research; Y Julio Coll of the National Institute of Agricultural and Food Research and Technology.

This work has been financed by F fundsEDER / Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities – State Research Agency (ref. RTI2018-101969-J-I00); Ministry of Science and Innovation (ref. AGL2014-51773-C3-1-R); Xunta de Galicia (GAIN) (ref. IN607B 2016/12) and Valencian Government and European Social Fund (FSE) 2014-2020 (ref. ACIF / 2016/207).

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