Ancient gene found to control potent antibody response to retroviruses

October 6, 2011

A researcher at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer research has identified a gene that controls the process by which antibodies gain their ability to combat retroviruses. Edward Browne shows that the gene TLR7 allows the antibody generating B cells to detect the presence of a retrovirus and promotes a process by which antibodies gain strength and potency, called a germinal center reaction. The findings are published in the Open Access journal PLoS Pathogens on October 6th.

TLR7 is a member of an ancient family of genes whose distant ancestors can also be found as far back as insects and worms, but these results show that the immune system has co-opted these genes for a new purpose – the generation of antibodies.

Antibodies are a key feature of our ability to fight off disease causing viruses, but for some viruses such as HIV, this response goes horribly wrong. People infected with HIV generate large amounts of apparently useless antibodies that lack to power to hurt the virus. Why this happens during HIV infection, and how to fix the problem is one of the biggest challenges facing researchers in the HIV field.

During the germinal center reaction, antibodies become mutated and undergo selection to allow the strongest antibodies to dominate. Dr. Browne notes that "these results identify TLR7 as an important gene that could be targeted to improve antibody responses in HIV patients. It's possible that in HIV patients this process could be enhanced or accelerated to speed up the formation of high affinity broadly neutralizing antibodies".

Explore further: Researchers discuss challenges to developing broadly protective HIV vaccines

Related Stories

Neutralizing HIV

July 18, 2011

Each time a virus invades a healthy individual, antibodies created by the body fight to fend off the intruders. For some viruses, like HIV, the antibodies are very specific and are generated too slowly to combat the rapidly ...

Recommended for you

Zika in fetal brain tissue responds to a popular antibiotic

November 30, 2016

Working in the lab, UC San Francisco researchers have identified fetal brain tissue cells that are targeted by the Zika virus and determined that azithromycin, a common antibiotic regarded as safe for use during pregnancy, ...

Zika and glaucoma linked for first time in new study

November 30, 2016

A team of researchers in Brazil and at the Yale School of Public Health has published the first report demonstrating that the Zika virus can cause glaucoma in infants who were exposed to the virus during gestation.

Flu forecasts successful on neighborhood level

November 30, 2016

Scientists at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health developed a computer model to predict the onset, duration, and magnitude of influenza outbreaks for New York City boroughs and neighborhoods. They found ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.