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Epigenetic control on transcription of viral genes

Viruses like human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) use your own cell machinery against you by hijacking your RNA polymerase machinery, among other things, to turn their genes into viral proteins. A study published in mBio this week reveals new information that could help in designing drugs to fend off these cellular pirates: during transcription, the elongation of HCMV RNA is facilitated by Elongin B, a protein that works much the same way when RNA polymerase is elongating human sequences. This suggests Elongin B could be used as a tool to strangle the synthesis of viral proteins ā€“ strike down Elongin B (or its action in viral gene transcription) and you can strike down the manufacture of viral proteins. The findings also offer up a new, tractable model system for studying how transcriptional elongation is regulated in living cells.

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