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Vitamin A may help boost immune system to fight tuberculosis
Date:2/25/2014

vitamins might use the same mechanism to aid the immune system, but this wasn't the case. They found that when the vitamins were added to human blood cells infected with tuberculosis, only vitamin A decreased the cells' cholesterol levels.

The researchers also discovered that the action of vitamin A was dependent on the expression of a gene called NPC2. Further experiments in the lab showed that even if an infected blood cell was stimulated with vitamin A, it would not be able to fight the tuberculosis bacteria if the cell couldn't express the NPC2 gene.

"We were very surprised that this particular gene was involved, since it has traditionally been associated with cholesterol transport and not immune defense," said co-first author Elliot Kim, who was a research technician in Liu's lab at the time of the study and is currently a graduate student in the department of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the Geffen School.

However, once the team took a closer look at the actions taking place in the cells, it made sense.

Cholesterol is stored in lysosomes, compartments in a cell that also play an integral role in fighting infections. If the lysomome is full of cholesterol, it supplies the bacteria with needed nutrition instead of killing it.

Vitamin A induces the cell to express NPC2, which helps the cell effectively remove cholesterol from the lysosomes so the bacteria can't access it. This allows the lysomomes to once again become effective in killing the bacteria.

When activated correctly, lysomomes fuse with the area of the cell containing the bacteria and dump antimicrobial material onto the bacteria to kill it, similar to a helicopter dropping water and retardant on a forest fire.

"The cells need vitamin A to trigger this defense process and NPC2 to carry it out," said co-first author Matthew Wheelwright, a medical and doctoral student at the University of Minnesota w
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Contact: Rachel Champeau
rchampeau@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2270
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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