In Science this week, an international team led by University of Oxford and University of Leuven researchers report on their analysis of sequences from HIV-1 group M, the strain of the virus that transferred from chimpanzees to humans. Their studies revealing that the virus emerged in humans the 1920s in Kinshasa in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. From there, the virus spread rapidly as Kinshasa was a commercial transportation hub connecting rural and urban regions. "Our results are consistent with hypotheses that iatrogenic interventions in Kinshasa and its surroundings and/or post-independence changes in sexual behavior were critical for the emergence of group M," the researchers say. "We suggest that a distinct combination of circumstances during a particular spatial and socio-historical window permitted the establishment, spatial dissemination, and epidemic growth of the HIV-1 group M pandemic."
Also in Science, a team of industry and academic scientists publish details of a new method to track cancer drugs in living cells using thermal protein profiling. Using mass spectrometry, they determined the thermal profiles of more than 7,000 proteins in human cells. Monitoring the effects of small-molecule ligands on these profiles revealed more than 50 targets for the kinase inhibitor staurosporine, while the heme biosynthesis enzyme ferrochelatase was found to be a target of kinase inhibitors. Overall, the data point to thermal proteome profiling as a means to measure drug-target engagement and identify markers of drug efficacy and toxicity in an unbiased manner.