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Making flies sick reveals new role for growth factors in immunity
Date:10/23/2008

A Salmonella infection is not a positive experience. However, by infecting the common laboratory fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster with a Salmonella strain known for causing humans intestinal grief, researchers in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University have shed light on some key cell regulatory processes with broad implications for understanding embryonic development, immune function and congenital diseases in humans. Associate Professor Stuart Newfeld and laboratory coordinator Joel Frandsen, along with colleagues in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Biodesign Institute at ASU, released their findings online on September 24 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Strong parallels exist in the regulation of immune system function in animals as diverse as flies, mice, and humans. Newfeld's own investigative connection between fly and human immune systems came about through his research with a well-studied family of proteins called Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMP).

"Bones and flies?" one might scoff. These proteins are named because of their involvement in the formation of bone and cartilage in humans; however, they have also been linked to many other aspects of early development and to essential cellular processes in virtually all animals.

One type of morphogenetic protein, intensively studied in fruit flies and the focus of the published study by the Newfeld group, is the growth factor Decapentaplegic (Dpp). Dpp acts as a hormonal signaling device, binding to cells and communicating, for instance, whether to divide or to stop growing or even to become a different type of cell.

Studies have shown that Dpp in the fruit fly and its counterparts in other animals have diverged little from one another in evolutionary time. Although there are tiny changes in the genes that code for this protein from animal to animal, the morphogenetic proteins are still structura
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Contact: Margaret Coulombe
margaret.coulombe@earthlink.net
480-727-8934
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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