A link between zinc and a critical aspect of normal immune cell function is identified by a study to be published in the September 2006 issue of Nature Immunology.
Invading pathogens can trigger sensors on immune cells, leading to the expression of proteins important for host defense. Toshio Hirano and colleagues demonstrate that pathogen detection induces changes in the expression of proteins responsible for importing and exporting zinc in immune cells, causing a net depletion of zinc inside cells.
Pathogen-triggered zinc depletion inside cells is essential for the upregulation of expression of host defense proteins; immune cells artificially flooded with zinc show blunted pathogen responsiveness.
These results suggest that immune cell function hinges on a delicate balance of zinc influx and efflux, and emphasize one specific link between nutrition and immunity.
Toshio Hirano (Osaka University, Japan)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
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