"Danger!" signals TLR9, the molecular sensor, whenever it recognizes bacterial or viral genetic information, specifically DNA. Instantly, the immune system initiates the process of fighting off the infection.
This immune cell produces TLR9, which glows green when irradiated with laser light. The molecule is localized on the edge of tiny spheres within the cell, where it will ultimately encounter pathogenic DNA.
In order to be fully operational, a portion of the protein must first be cleaved off – this is done by “molecular scissors”, which the researchers identified as well. Both transport into the endolysosomes and cleavage of the protein depend upon the presence of a second protein called UNC93B1. "We thus managed to identify a number of important components that are key to TLR9's ability to recognize bacterial and viral intruders and set off an alarm," says Dr. Margit Oelkers, another HZI scientist involved in the project. Studying TLR9's transport within different immune cell types, the researchers found out that the process actually varies from one cell type to the next. Says Brinkmann: "The results are helping us better understand how TLR9 works. Our findings are critical if we are to exploit the molecule's properties for therapeutic purposes."
Dr. Birgit Manno | Helmholtz-Zentrum
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