The Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (CeMM) announces the discovery of a new molecular sensor in human cells capable of recognizing infecting viruses and transmitting an alarm signal to the body. The study, directed by the center’s director Giulio Superti-Furga, appears January 22 in the online advanced publication route of the journal Nature Immunology.
The newly discovered protein, termed AIM2, patrols the inside of human immune cells and when it encounters a DNA that is suspicious, possibly coming from an intruding virus or bacterium, triggers the secretion of the signaling protein Interleukin-1. This proinflammatory molecule activates an anti-invasion alarm program throughout the entire body. It is one of the main causes of fever and a central mediator of autoimmune disease. Thus, the study identified a new centerpiece of the human’s defense arsenal against pathogens.
“We are excited about this molecule as it helps understand the body’s immediate reaction to infections. It is much too early to say, but in the future AIM2 could lead to ways to enhance the patients’ own protection when this is needed, as during epidemics or when otherwise immune depressed”, stresses Tilmann Bürckstümmer, the first author of the study.
The results derived from a large scale, systematic search for human proteins that bind pathogenic molecules. Three other groups from Worcester, Philadelphia and Adelaide report the identification of the same protein in parallel publications appearing in the journals Nature and Science.
Materials provided by Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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