Drawing on lab experiments and computer studies, Johns Hopkins researchers have learned how a common protein delivers its warning message to cells when an infectious agent invades the body. The findings are important because this biological intruder alarm causes the bodys immune system to leap into action to fight the infection. Learning more about how this process works, the researchers said, could lead to better treatments for diseases that occur when the immune system overreacts or pays too little attention to the infection alarm.
When a white blood cell detects a bacterial intruder, it sounds the alarm by releasing a protein called tumor necrosis factor, or TNF. TNF sends a message from the surface of a neighboring cell to its nucleus, instructing it to activate genes to combat the infection. Inside the cell, the message is passed along the NF-kappaB pathway. Along the way, the warning message is processed by a molecule called Inhibitor of KappaB Kinase, or IKK. Diagram prepared by Raymond Cheong
Collaborating with colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, the Johns Hopkins researchers have used their discoveries to develop a new computer model that could help produce medications for immune system-related ailments including septic shock, cancer, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Their findings, which focused on how a large protein molecule called tumor necrosis factor, or TNF, triggers an immune response, were reported in the February issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Phil Sneiderman | EurekAlert!
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