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Drug Dev Res. 2009 Jun 1;70(4):255-265.

Identification of novel cellular targets for therapeutic intervention against Ebola virus infection by siRNA screening.

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Dept. of Microbiology & Immunology.


While much progress has been made in developing drugs against a few prominent viruses such as HIV, few examples exist for emerging infectious agents. In some cases broad spectrum anti-viral drugs, such as ribavirin, are effective, but for some groups of viruses, these show little efficacy in animal models. Traditional methods focus on screening small molecule libraries to identify drugs that target virus factors, with the intention that side-effects to the host can be minimized. However, this greatly limits potential drug targets and virus genes can rapidly mutate to avoid drug action. Recent advances in siRNA gene targeting technologies have provided a powerful tool to specifically target and suppress the expression of cell genes. Since viruses are completely dependent upon host cell proteins for propagation, siRNA screening promises to reveal novel cell proteins and signaling pathways that may be viable targets for drug therapy regimens. Here we used an siRNA screening approach to identify gene products that play critical roles in Ebola virus infection. By gene cluster analysis, proteins in phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase and calcium/calmodulin kinase related networks were identified as important for Zaire Ebola virus infection and prioritized for further evaluation. Key roles of each were confirmed by testing available drugs specific for members of each pathway. Interestingly, both sets of proteins are also important in cancer and subject to intense investigation. Thus development of new drugs against these cancer targets may also prove useful in combating Ebola virus.

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