Uric acid may signal the immune system to warn it of impending danger, according to a paper published online by Nature this week. The research provides a molecular link between cell injury and immunity, and may have implications for vaccines, autoimmunity and inflammation.
Cells normally contain uric acid. Now Kenneth L. Rock and colleagues report that when cells are injured, their levels of uric acid go up. When released from dying cells, it stimulates bone-marrow-derived dendritic cells to mature so that they can present foreign particles to the immune system and help trigger an immune response.
Uric acid may also help boost the effects of vaccines in humans, the researchers speculate. So far, only one compound, alum, has been approved for use as an adjuvant. Uric acid may represent a second possibility.
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