Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New protein vital for immune response is found in surprise location

26.08.2005


A newly discovered protein not only is vital to the immune system’s ability to fight off viral infections but also has been found in an unexpected location within the cell, causing researchers to rethink previous notions about the workings of the human immune system.



Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center said their findings may lead to new therapies aimed at preventing and treating viral diseases such as the flu, hepatitis, West Nile virus and SARS. The study is available online and will appear in the Sept. 9 issue of the journal Cell.

Working with cultured cells, researchers found that the protein, made by a gene they discovered and named MAVS, is located in an unexpected place within the cell - in the membrane of an organelle called the mitochondrion, which until now was best known for generating energy required for daily life.


"This is the first mitochondrial protein known to be involved in immune defense against any microbial infection," said Dr. Zhijian "James" Chen, associate professor of molecular biology at UT Southwestern and the study’s senior author. "This discovery puts mitochondria on the map in terms of immunity, and it opens up a new avenue of research in immunology."

The researchers modified normal cells so that the cells could not produce the MAVS protein, which is short for Mitochondrial Anti-Viral Signaling protein. Without MAVS, the cells were highly vulnerable to infection with two common viruses in a class called RNA viruses Other RNA viruses include hepatitis C, West Nile, SARS and the flu viruses.

Cells altered to produce an overabundance of MAVS were protected from dying from viral infection.

"These results raise the possibility that variations in the expression levels of MAVS may endow different individuals with varying ability to fight off viral diseases," said Dr. Chen, who also is an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "Viruses have evolved along with humans and have developed strategies to evade the host’s immunity. It’s quite possible that some viruses may target MAVS in order to achieve successful infection. In those cases, therapies that enhance MAVS expression or activity may be a viable option for boosting immune responses against viral diseases."

The fact that MAVS is located within the membrane of the mitochondrion makes sense for a couple of reasons, Dr. Chen said.

First, proteins housed within the mitochondria have been shown by researchers, such as UT Southwestern biochemist Dr. Xiaodong Wang and others, to play a role in apoptosis, or programmed cell death. The fact that MAVS is located in the membrane of mitochondria suggests it may play a role in coordinating cell death and immune response, Dr. Chen said.

Secondly, many scientists believe that mitochondria originally evolved from bacteria that lived within a host organism’s cells, eventually developing a symbiotic relationship with host cells. Now that mitochondria are an integral part of our cells, Dr. Chen speculated that mitochondria may have acquired new functions by serving as a sentinel to detect invading pathogens and other stressful signals, ensuring that the host cells survive and thrive even in adverse environments.

Dr. Chen and his research group are currently working to determine how the MAVS protein functions within the complex series of biochemical reactions that takes place when the body is infected with a virus.

Researchers at UT Southwestern, led by microbiologist Dr. Michael Gale, and elsewhere have previously found that when an RNA virus invades a cell, a protein called RIG-I first intercepts the virus and binds to viral genetic material. That interaction starts a cascade of biochemical reactions that eventually triggers the cell to make a protein called interferon, which in turn fights off the virus.

But the chain of events between RIG-I’s encounter with the virus and the interferon response is not known. Researchers have been trying to identify and characterize the proteins involved in an effort to better understand the nature of viral infection and how to combat it.

Dr. Chen said he and his group believe MAVS is among a group of molecules that play a role in activating other proteins - including IRF-3 and NF-kappaB - that prod the cell into making interferon. He also said there is evidence that MAVS binds with RIG-I, but more experiments are needed to determine just how MAVS functions within the cell.

Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in the studies were lead authors Rashu Seth, a graduate student research assistant, and Dr. Lijun Sun, a postdoctoral researcher in molecular biology, and Chee-Kwee Ea, a graduate student research assistant.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert A. Welch Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the American Cancer Society, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Amanda Siegfried | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utsouthwestern.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A novel synthetic antibody enables conditional “protein knockdown” in vertebrates
20.08.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden

nachricht Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves
17.08.2018 | Leibniz Universität Hannover

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum bugs, meet your new swatter

20.08.2018 | Information Technology

A novel synthetic antibody enables conditional “protein knockdown” in vertebrates

20.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Metamolds: Molding a mold

20.08.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>