Published: 28-05-2019 20:48 | Updated: 28-05-2019 20:59

Proteins from airways influence interactions of viruses with immune cells

New results from a collaborative project between Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet show that proteins in biological fluids attach to and in different ways influence the effects of common viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Herpes Simplex Virus type I (HSV-I). The results indicate a possibility to manipulate the effect of different viruses by targeting the proteins that attaches to the viral surface, which may lead to new therapies.

The new research shows that certain extracellular proteins in biological fluids from blood and airways can rapidly attach and accumulate in a coating layer around the virus, in a way that resembles what previously has been observed for synthetic nanoparticles. The coating layer of proteins, named the viral protein corona, influences the impact of the virus on immune cells. The study shows that the virus together with the protein corona from the fluid obtained by washing the airways stimulates immune cells more efficiently than does the virus with the protein corona from blood. The researchers also found that viruses such as HSV-1 are able to accelerate the transformation of some soluble  proteins into the thread-like structures that constitute the amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease; a finding that may provide new possibilities for understanding and treating certain neurodegenerative disorders.  The results, presented in the well-renowned periodical Nature Communications, demonstrate new molecular targets to counteract various pathogenic effects of common viruses.

Virus infections in the airways
The research project has been led by Dr. Kariem Ezzat at the Department of Molecular Bioscience, Wenner-Gren’s Institute, Stockholm University, and has involved a dozen research groups in Sweden and abroad. From the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Dr. Bettina Levänen and Prof. Anders Lindén, both at the Unit for Lung and Airway Research, have been involved in the parts of the project that relate to airways.

- In our research group, we are very happy that we have been able to contribute to Dr. Ezzat’s frontier study. Its potential importance for neurodegenerative disorders is obvious but the main interest of ours is set on the previously unknown mechanisms that may affect the impact of viral infections in the airways. We believe that the revelation of these mechanisms can contribute to an improved understanding of the increased susceptibility to viral infections in common airway disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We hope to be able to follow up on this with novel studies.

Anders Lindén


The Viral Protein Corona Directs Viral Pathogenesis and Amyloid Aggregation

Ezzat et al

Nature Communications 


Contact at IMM

Professor Anders Lindén

Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet

Tel: +46 8 524 822 17


Press-release from Stockholm University