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A case of mistaken molecular identity

protein, reacts with antibodies produced by Chagas patients.

"We showed that the same antibodies that attack heart cells can also interfere with rhodopsin," Levin said. "This is important, because it enlarges the concept of molecular mimicry in Chagas disease." Rhodopsin and beta1-adrenergic receptors in heart cells belong to the same class of molecules, a subfamily of the G-protein-coupled receptors, he pointed out.

Paveto, an independent researcher at INGEBI--an institute that is home to three HHMI international research scholars--conducted much of the painstaking work on the project by developing an original method to test rhodopsin function, said Levin.

Levin said that Chagas patients' vision problems are caused exclusively by the antibodies that block rhodopsin, and not by inflammation. "In the hearts of Chagas patients, we see scarring because there is a complex reaction that causes inflammation," he said. "But there are no such scars in the eyes of Chagas patients with reduced vision."

"No one knew about the night blindness, so we don't know, for instance, if Chagas patients have more accidents at night," Levin added. "That's one of many ideas to explore now. The research also points out that we need new drugs or vaccines to stop the parasite, and at a social level, it stresses the need to improve living conditions of Chagas patients, particularly those living in rural areas."


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Source:Howard Hughes Medical Institute


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