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VBI, Mayo Clinic investigate link between fungal proteins, innate immunity and asthma
Date:2/27/2008

re being attacked by parasites. Environmental fungi such as Alternaria do not typically cause invasive infections like parasites but for some reason, in certain people, the body thinks it is being attacked. This results in Th2 cells constantly recruiting eosinophils and chronic inflammation occurs because humans are continually exposed to common environmental fungi like Alternaria.

The hypothesis that will be tested is that certain immunoactive enzymes from Alternaria activate dendritic cells through yet unidentified receptors that allow for tailoring of the adaptive immune response and the formation of Th2 cells. This in turn leads to the strong immune responses in the airways. The research team will use different approaches to determine the potential role of these receptors in the cascade of immune interactions that comprise inflammation of the airways. This should allow them to better understand how certain environmental stimuli are linked via the innate immune system to the adaptive immune system and development of inflammation and disease.

Dr. Chris Lawrence, Associate Professor at VBI and the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech, one of the leading experts in Alternaria biology and principal investigator of the Alternaria genome sequencing project funded by the National Science Foundation-United States Department of Agriculture (NSF-USDA) Microbial Genome Sequencing Program, stated: Our part of the collaboration is critical and will involve the use of proteomics and functional genomics approaches to identify the novel enzymes produced by Alternaria that are triggers of innate immune responses that shape the adaptive immune system. Recombinant fungal proteins will be used to dissect the different molecular steps involved in the development and progression of inflammation and asthma. He added: We will create a series of fungal knockout mutants for specific genes that will be used to examine the specific role of fungal proteins
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Contact: Barry Whyte
whyte@vbi.vt.edu
540-231-1767
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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