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Mild-mannered metabolic helper rushes to fight invading viruses, researchers report
Date:5/7/2010

BOSTON, Mass. - Within cells, an ancient antiviral duo can deliver a one-two knockout to thwart invading viruses, report researchers who have just unmasked the cellular sidekick that throws the first punch. The findings mean scientists must rethink the design of antiviral immunity and how the body fends off viruses of all types, including influenza and HIV.

In the study, Children's Hospital Boston researchers found, mild-mannered organelles inside the cell known as peroxisomes can detect virus invasion signals and launch a limited antiviral offensive. Other organelles, the mitochondria, follow up with a more definitive antiviral counterattack.

"This is the first demonstration that peroxisomes are involved in immunity," said Jonathan Kagan, staff scientist in the gastroenterology division and senior author of the paper published May 6 in the online journal Cell. "This work has implications for our understanding of how we interact with infectious viruses and even bacteria."

The paper establishes a new function for peroxisomes as a cellular compartment that promotes a rapid response to viral infection. With this discovery, the researchers say, scientists need to look for other cellular parts that may do double duty as pathogen detectors. A larger volunteer army may be lurking in cells as needed for the innate immune system.

In a clinical implication, the findings suggest a new approach to rare and largely untreatable conditions known as peroxisome biogenesis disorders, Kagan said. In the most common manifestation, Zellweger syndrome, children suffer from major developmental abnormalities and die as infants. The milder disorders allow children to live into their teens. Many affected children die of lung infections such as pneumonia, which may arise from problems in the antiviral signaling scaffold due to the absence of peroxisomes, Kagan speculates. Previously, the disorders have been considered developmental and metaboli
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Contact: Bess Andrews
elizabeth.andrews@childrens.harvard.edu
617-919-3110
Children's Hospital Boston
Source:Eurekalert

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