We are born with a natural immunity to infection. It is called the innate immune response.
Inflammasome complexes are part of that defense. These protein complexes form in infected or damaged cells. They include proteins that recognize viruses, bacteria and other threats. They also activate a cell death pathway called pyroptosis to get rid of infected cells.
St. Jude scientists found that inflammasomes can work with other cell death pathway molecules or even work with other sensor proteins. The result is a mega-cell death complex. It is called a PANoptosome.
The cell builds these PANoptosome complexes to respond to infections or other danger signals. Instead of triggering just one cell death pathway, PANoptosomes activate three. This is important to provide backup systems for the cell, especially to combat infectious agents carrying inhibitors of cell death pathways.
The discovery helps us better understand immune biology. The research also shows a possible way to treat some diseases, including cancer.
“The findings highlight the plasticity and redundancy within the innate immune system to respond to threats and counteract pathogens’ attempts to shut down cell death pathways, which has implications for health and disease,” said Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, Ph.D., of the St. Jude Department of Immunology.
Nature published a report on this research.