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An Antibacterial Catapult

 
  August, 21 2008 8:43
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Scientists have discovered an immune cell that fights bacteria by throwing mitochondrial DNA in a catapult-like manner, shows a study published this week in Nature Medicine.

Eosinophils are white blood cells that help fight infections, but their exact function in immunity remains unclear. Hans-Uwe Simon and colleagues now show that bacteria can activate eosinophils to release mitochondrial DNA, independently of eosinophil death. Notably, the process of DNA release occurs rapidly in a catapult-like manner -- in less than one second. In the extracellular space, the mitochondrial DNA binds proteins to form extracellular structures that trap and kill bacteria both in vitro and, under inflammatory conditions, in vivo.

These results reveal a previously undescribed mechanism of eosinophil-mediated immune responses that might be crucial for preventing the host from uncontrolled invasion of bacteria.

Author contact:

Hans-Uwe Simon (University of Bern, Switzerland)
E-mail: hus@pki.unibe.ch

Abstract available online.

(C) Nature Medicine press release.


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