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Biological Sciences
Research Highlights

March 2007

Mass Spectrometry Capabilities Aid in Large Poxvirus Study

Results will help development of improved antiviral drugs and vaccines

Results: Using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry capabilities at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a Department of Energy national scientific user facility located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, researchers successfully conducted one of the largest proteomic studies of the vaccinia virus. Vaccinia is a poxvirus nearly identical to smallpox, used as a vaccine to prevent the sometimes-fatal disease. The results of the study were reported in the journal Virology.

Why it matters:The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will help provide researchers with a biological understanding of poxviruses and is expected to aid in development of improved antiviral drugs and vaccines to combat outbreaks of poxviruses that might occur as a result of biological threat.

Methods: The team used a combination of EMSL's tandem mass spectrometry and Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry capabilities to detect 80 vaccinia virus-encoded proteins—confirming and extending the list of vaccinia virus proteins known to be produced. Ten of the proteins detected during the study accounted for approximately 80 percent of the virion mass of vaccinia virus—or the infectious form of the virus as it exists outside of the host cell. Another 13 proteins were identified that were not detected and reported in earlier studies.

Next steps: The researchers will continue efforts to study and learn more about the previously undetected proteins.

Research team: Kim Hixson, Mary Lipton and Ron Moore, PNNL; Wolfgang Resch and Bernard Moss, NIH.

Source: Resch W, KK Hixson, RJ Moore, MS Lipton, and B Moss. 2007. "Protein composition of the vaccinia virus mature virion." Virology 358(1):233-247.

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