Stability of Ebola Virus Nucleocapsid Studied Via Supercomputer Simulations to Identify Possible Targets of Therapeutic Attack

In the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19, it's hard to appreciate how lucky those outside of Africa have been to avoid the deadly Ebola virus disease. It incapacitates its victims soon after infection with massive vomiting or diarrhea, leading to death from fluid loss in about 50 percent of the afflicted. The Ebola virus transmits only through bodily fluids, marking a key difference from the COVID-19 virus and one that has helped contain Ebola's spread. Ebola outbreaks continue to flare up in West Africa, although a vaccine developed in December 2019 and improvements in care and containment have helped keep Ebola in check. Supercomputer simulations by a University of Delaware team that included an undergraduate supported by the XSEDE (Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment) EMPOWER program are adding to the mix and helping to crack the defenses of Ebola's coiled genetic material. This new research could help lead to breakthroughs in treatment and improved vaccines for Ebola and other deadly viral diseases such as COVID-19. "Our main findings are related to the stability of the Ebola nucleocapsid," said Juan R. Perilla, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Delaware. Dr. Perilla co-authored a new study published in online on October 20, 2020 in the AIP Journal of Chemistry Physics. It focused on the nucleocapsid, a protein shell that protects against the body's defenses the genetic material Ebola uses to replicate itself. The open-access article is titled "Molecular Determinants of Ebola Nucleocapsid Stability from Molecular Dynamics Simulations.” "What we've found is that the Ebola virus has evolved to regulate the stability of the nucleocapsid by forming electrostatic interactions with its RNA, its genetic material," Dr. Perilla said:
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