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MASP-1 and the lectin pathway
Behind the discovery of the central role of MASP-1 in the complement system is, apart from Soeren Egedal Degn, also the Aarhus professors Jens Chr. Jensenius and Steffen Thiel, who are considered international experts in the field. They have previously discovered the four other known proteins related to MASP-1, namely MASP-2, MASP-3, MAp19 and MAp44. Together, these proteins make up a central part of the activation pathway of complement known as the lectin pathway. The research group in Aarhus, which also includes the laboratory technicians Lisbeth Jensen and Annette G. Hansen, has been central in the elucidation of the lectin pathway through the past 15 years.
The enzyme MASP-1 is able to efficiently auto-activate, for example when it "senses" a bacterium. It then activates MASP-2, which in turn activates the rest of the complement system in a cascade-like manner, where a long list of enzymes sequentially activate each other - much like dominoes. The result is a signal to immune cells to home to the area in the body, where the system is activated, and to kill the intruding bacteria. The bacteria are also covered in "molecular tags", making it easier for the immune cells to recognize and efficiently engulf them. Finally, the complement system directly "punches holes" in the bacteria, by forming pore-like structures in their membranes.
This work has been supported by the Lundbeck Foundation, The Novo Nordic Foundation, as well as the Danish Council for Independent Research - Medical Sciences. Soeren Egedal Degn is employed at the Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University, through a postdoctoral fellowship from the Carlsberg Foundation.
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