For the first time, researchers have sequenced all 36 genes of novel receptors that appear to play a critical role in the innate immune protection of zebrafish – an achievement that could lead to a better understanding of infectious diseases and certain cancers.
Their paper, titled "Resolution of the novel immune-type receptor gene cluster in zebrafish," appears online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This is the most genetically complex system of innate immune receptors thus far described,"said principal investigator Gary Litman, PhD, Hines professor of pediatrics who works at the Childrens Research Institute at the University of South Florida and All Childrens Hospital. "They may be related to receptors in humans involved in natural killer cell function." Natural killer cells sense and kill malignant cells and cells infected with certain viruses.
The zebrafish, a small species of freshwater aquarium fish, increasingly serves as an animal model for the study of genetic diseases. Like humans, it has two types of immune systems – innate and adaptive. Innate immune systems provide a first line of defense against foreign microorganisms. But, humans and other jawed vertebrates have also evolved more customized or adaptive immune systems, which use an arsenal of antibodies and T-cell receptors to fend off diverse pathogens and prevent repeat attacks.
Anne DeLotto Baier | EurekAlert!
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