University of South Florida

Dr. Uversky contributes to research helping unravel Ebola’s lethality

Last year’s Ebola outbreak in South Africa developed into one of the deadliest in history, but why?

There are no effective treatments or vaccines against the hemorrhagic fever caused by Ebola infection; however, strains of the virus with dramatically different virulence have emerged since the first outbreak in 1976, with fatality rates ranging from 25 to 90 percent.

The underlying reasons for these wide variations in virulence among various strains of Ebola have remained elusive.

Ebola virus

But recently, research by Vladimir Uversky, PhD, DSc, of the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and colleagues Gerard Goh at Goh’s BioComputing in Singapore and A. Keith Dunker at Indiana University School of Medicine discovered a strong correlation between the virulence of Ebola virus types and the degree of disorder in proteins forming their nucleocapsids,

The group’s findings were published in the journal Molecular BioSystems and the paper was covered in June by Chemistry World, a monthly news magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The researchers conducted computational analysis to search for links between the structural features of viral proteins and the virulence of different Ebola virus strains.  They found that strains responsible for the most lethal outbreaks of Ebola possessed higher levels of intrinsically disordered proteins enclosing the viral nucleic acid than the less virulent strains.


Vladimir Uversky, PhD, DSc

“This correlation between increased levels of intrinsic disorder in proteins encapsidating the virus’ genetic material and increased virulence opens new strategies for Ebola virus vaccine development,” said the study’s co-principal investigator Dr. Uversky, an associate professor in the USF Health Department of Molecular Medicine.

Article citation:
Gerard Kian-Meng Goh, A. Keith Dunker, Vladimir N. Uversky. Detection of links between Ebola nucleocapsid and virulence using disorder analysis, Mol. BioSyst. Published online 27 May 2015. DOI: 10.1039/C5MB00240K.

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