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New dual recognition mechanism discovered in tuberculosis
Date:9/9/2010

One third of the world's population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), which leads to tuberculosis (TB), a leading cause of death world-wide. A new discovery, led by a team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, offers hope for new approaches to the prevention and treatment of TB. The team's discovery of a novel mechanism that may contribute to immune recognition of MTB is published in the September issue of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

Most individuals with TB recover from the initial infection and become asymptomatic, but the bacterium persists for years, surviving largely inside macrophages, a type of cell that resides in the immune system. This presents a public health problem in that TB can reactivate and cause serious disease or death. Researchers and physicians know the body's immune system is capable of containing the infection but not curing it completely. It begs the question: "How does the organism survive in the human immune system for so many years?"

For the past 15 years, Drs. Clifford Harding and W. Henry Boom of Case Western Reserve have been seeking the answer to this question. Their work indicated that MTB can inhibit the ability of macrophages to stimulate infection-fighting immune responses, and they identified that a protein on macrophages called Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) is involved in this immune evasion mechanism. TLR2 seems to be a two-edged sword in the complex immune response to MTB, as it helps some immunity mechanisms and inhibits others. Understanding the balance of these effects and the role of TLR2 may provide insights to design therapies for TB.

"Understanding how MTB interacts with the immune system and how it can both activate and inhibit the immune response is critically important for the design of the next generation of TB vaccines. The persistence of infection is dependent on MTB's ability to manipulate our immune system to its
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Contact: Jessica Studeny
jessica.studeny@case.edu
216-368-4692
Case Western Reserve University
Source:Eurekalert

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