TOLL DETERS BACTERIA
The mammalian protein that triggers an innate immune response to bacterial DNA has been identified. Innate immunity provides an organism with a rapid response to invading microorganisms. The immune system uses receptor proteins that recognize a microbial pathogen according to the molecular patterns displayed on its surface. There are many pattern-recognition molecules that are involved in innate responses to microbial lipids and carbohydrates. Bacterial DNA is also a potent inducer of innate immunity.
Shizuo Akira of Osaka University, Japan, and colleagues now show how the immune system distinguishes bacterial DNA from that of the host organism (Nature, Vol. 408, No. 6813, 07 Dec 2000, pp. 740–745). They have found a mammalian protein — ‘Toll-like receptor 9’ (TLR9) — that recognizes a specific pattern in bacterial DNA.
"Before molecules that activate Toll-like receptors can be truly useful in the clinic, it will be important to find ways to prevent harmful side effects. It should then be possible to arm ourselves against the ever-increasing threats of infectious predators," comments Robert L. Modlin of UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, in an accompanying News and Views article.
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