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A certain form of ubiquitin can trigger body’s immune system


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22 April 2010 Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Ubiquitin ChainA certain form of ubiquitin, a protein that locks onto molecules inside cells and marks them for destruction, triggers  the body’s immune system  by binding to and activating another protein called RIG-I, according to researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Chen and his colleagues reconstituted key elements of the human innate immune system in laboratory test tubes and found ubiquitin forms a unique chain-like structure that associates with RIG-I before RIG-I can get to work fighting viruses. The innate immune system is the body’s first generic response against invading pathogens.

“Activation of RIG-I is the first line of our immune defenses against viral infections,” said Dr. Chen1, an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at UT Southwestern. “Understanding how it comes to life is a key step in developing new approaches to antiviral therapies. Having this test-tube system could help us identify substances that enhance the body’s antiviral immunity.”

Dr. Chen said his team’s experiments mark the first time innate immunity has been recapitulated in a test tube. The findings provide one of the missing pieces in the complex puzzle of how the body fights off infection, he added.

1 Dr. Zhijan “James” Chen” is a professor of molecular biology at UT Southwestern and senior author of this study.

Source: UT Southwestern




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