Herpes viruses usually remain in the body permanently: they nest in the cells and also manage to be transferred from the mother to the daughter cells during cell division. In the case of Kaposi’s sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV), a specific viral protein called LANA is essential for the process of passing it on to daughter cells. It links the virus’ DNA to the host cell’s chromosomes, which are then divided and pass into the daughter cells.

A team of scientists, including many RESIST researchers, has now succeeded in further developing substances that prevent LANA from binding to the viral DNA. “These inhibitors could now be refined and then stop these herpes viruses from persisting in the human body,” says Aylin Berwanger of RESIST researcher Dr. Empting’s group at the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF). She is the first author of the paper leading to this result, published in the prestigious Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. “The work built on LANA inhibitors that we had previously developed,” explains Dr. Saskia Stein from RESIST researcher Prof. Schulz’s team at the Institute of Virology at Hannover Medical School (MHH). The scientists arrived at these results together with other researchers, including RESIST researcher Prof. Hirsch from HIPS.

KSHV causes Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare cancer of the skin, mucosa and internal organs, and is also responsible for two rare lymphomas. The diseases usually first develop under immunodeficiency, as in AIDS or immunosuppressive therapy, but also occur in old age and after transplantation. The course of the disease can be very different, it can remain with tissue changes, but can also lead to death.

The photo shows Aylin Berwanger and Dr. Saskia Stein. They presented their work at the DZIF annual meeting at Herrenhausen Palace in late September 2023.

The original paper “Disrupting Kaposi’s Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (KSHV) Latent Replication with a Small Molecule Inhibitor” can be found here.