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HI publishes COVID-19 research to aid virus control

Dr. Bin Liu, Assistant Professor and leader of the Transcription and Gene Regulation lab at The Hormel Institute, published discoveries regarding SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

COVID-19 has infected approximately 200 million people and led to more than 4 million deaths worldwide.

“This research is of broad importance to combat various emerging and re-emerging coronaviruses and will also aid in the development of effective anti-coronavirus drugs,” said Liu, who joined The Hormel Institute in 2018 from Yale University.

The article “Structural basis of mismatch recognition by a SARS-CoV-2 proofreading enzyme” was published in Science (2021). It is a collaboration between Liu and Dr. Yang Yang at Iowa State University and Dr. Chang Liu at Yale University.

The study utilized cryo-electron microscope (CryoEM), a Titan Krios considered one of the world’s most powerful electron microscopes, to study the structures of COVID-19 viral RNA proofreading machine (ExoN complex) to understand how ExoN is responsible for improving the fidelity of coronavirus RNA synthesis by removing mis-incorporated nucleotides, and how it recognizes and excises nucleotide analog inhibitors incorporated into the nascent RNA, undermining the effectiveness of first-line nucleotide analog-based antivirals. Dr. Liu plans to further study how SARS-CoV-2 replicates and transcribes RNA with the goal of developing improved anti-coronavirus therapies.

“We believe our studies will be of broad interest to scientists in the fields of coronavirus, cryo-electron microscopy, replication/transcription and mismatch correction,” Liu said.

Full paper is accessible at https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2021/07/26/science.abi9310.