As we have talked about in class, Rubella is a disease caused by a rubivirus of the family togaviridae. Rubella is not generally harmful in children, and is usually mildly harmful in adults. However, Rubella can cause significant birth defects in babies whose mothers are infected, and according to the article, is responsible for most birth defects worldwide.
Recently, researchers from the University of Alberta found that a specific capsid protein in Rubella "block[s] the process that triggers cell death" (apoptosis). Because host cells are unable to undergo cell suicide, this process enables the virus to replicate and allows the infection to spread. To identify the gene associated with this capsid protein, the scientists performed "reverse genetic[s]", experiments in which they mutated genes to observe the phenotypic effects. They found that when the gene associated with this capsid protein was mutated, the capsid protein did not function normally and the virus could no longer block apoptosis pathways. Because host cells were able to undergo apoptosis earlier in the infection, the virus was unable to replicate.
This research identified a specific gene and capsid protein of Rubella that may serve as targets for treatments for Rubella. In addition, the article provides grounds for future research on other RNA viruses to see if they may operate via similar pathways in the cell.