St. Jude scientists have identified a key molecule that serves as a “security chief” to help the immune system recognize and fight infections with dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella and Burkholderia.
The key molecule is called IRF8. Researchers showed that in immune cells, IRF8 functions like a building security chief to make sure there are enough guards on duty to spot burglaries and alert authorities.
IRF8 regulates proteins that detect bacteria and activate the NLRC4 inflammasome. Then the NLRC4 inflammasome helps launch a response to fight the infection and trigger inflammatory cell death.
“This advances our understanding of how our bodies sense infectious agents, particularly toxic agents like Salmonella, Burkholderia and Pseudomonas,” said Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, PhD, of St. Jude Immunology. “Such knowledge is essential for finding new ways to block infections.”
The research appeared in the journal Cell.