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Fish fend off invading germs with an initial response similar to the one found in people
Date:9/23/2009

Since the human response to infection is highly complex, research to understand how people fight infection is facilitated by studying how similar processes occur in simpler organisms. Zebrafish are becoming an important model for human disease, since they are easily handled, maintained and manipulated and many fundamental processes between zebrafish and humans are conserved. In addition, the small zebrafish embryo is highly amenable to drug screening assays. The functional similarity between the initial responses of zebrafish embryo and humans to infection suggests that the zebrafish embryo may be a valuable model for understanding early immune responses and identifying potential therapeutics for infection or immune mediated disease. However, the initial response of zebrafish to infection and how it compares to the human response is not well understood.

When humans first encounter germs, like viruses or bacteria, the first stage of a two-part inflammatory response is triggered, which is termed the innate immune response. During this early phase, proteins are made around the site of infection to initiate the body's defense system and to recruit circulating immune cells, which begins the inflammatory process. A family of proteins that are critical to instigating the immune response are the interferons (IFN), particularly IFN-γ.

Scientists now report that IFN-γ is also produced in zebrafish embryos when they are exposed to bacteria that cause disease in fish. These studies use developing zebrafish embryos whose response to infection is isolated to the innate immune response. Since the zebrafish embryo only demonstrates innate immunity, it allows for specific study of the effects of IFN-γ on these early events. This study demonstrates that both zebrafish and human IFN-γ proteins function in much the same way, despite having very distinct protein structures. In both zebrafish and humans, IFN-γ triggers the production of an a
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Contact: Kristy Kain
kristy.kain@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-1298
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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