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Chemists discover the structure of a key coronavirus protein

MIT chemists have determined the molecular structure of a protein found in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This protein, called the envelope protein E, forms a cation-selective channel and plays a key role in the virus’s ability to replicate itself and stimulate the host cell’s inflammation response. If researchers could devise ways to block this channel, they may be able to reduce the pathogenicity of the virus and interfere with viral replication, says Mei Hong, an MIT professor of chemistry. In this study, the researchers investigated the binding sites of two drugs that block the channel, but these drugs bind only weakly, so they would not be effective inhibitors of the E protein.