The NOD family of proteins acts as an alarm for trespassing bacteria that hide inside our cells, but what NODs detect is unclear. In the July issue of Nature Immunology, scientists show that NOD1 senses a specific portion of a sugar-laden protein from the cell wall of bacteria resulting in an immune response that helps to fight the infection.
Inohara and colleagues from Michigan sifted through the bacterial components that could possibly activate NOD1 in immune cells and identified a signature structure within the bacterial peptidoglycan (a repetitive carbohydrate structure attached to a small protein). This bacterial molecule is different from that which stimulates NOD2, another member of the family. Although NOD1 and NOD2 recognize distinct molecules, they signal the same downstream events.
Therefore, this finding has implications not only for infectious diseases but also for treating Crohn’s disease because triggering NOD1 activation could potentially compensate for defective NOD2 function associated with this autoimmune condition.
University of Michigan Medical School
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Richard A. Flavell
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