Immunologists have uncovered a molecular mechanism that alerts the immune system to the presence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The research, reported online in Nature, could help to improve current therapies for HCV.
RIG-I is a known cellular receptor that recognizes the presence of viral genetic material - a sure sign that a cell is infected - and signals to the immune system to attack. Now, Michael Gale and colleagues have identified a specific pattern - a polyuridine motif - from the HCV genome that is recognized by RIG-I. Similar motifs are also present in the genomes of other viruses, including rabies, Ebola and measles.
As well as helping us to understand how the immune system responds to viral infections, the findings could be useful in the design of additives for vaccines to 'boost' immune responses.
Michael Gale (University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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