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

Utah man may have contracted Zika from dying father's tears

September 29, 2016

A Utah man who mysteriously contracted Zika from his infected father may have got it by touching his dad's tears or sweat with his bare hands, according to new research unveiled Wednesday that found the unusual transmission ...

Acne sufferers' cells may be protected against aging

September 28, 2016

Scientists at King's College London have found that people who have previously suffered from acne are likely to have longer telomeres (the protective repeated nucleotides found at the end of chromosomes) in their white blood ...

Antibiotics developed in 1960s show promise for TB therapy

September 28, 2016

First generation cephalosporins—antibiotics introduced as a treatment against bacterial infections in 1963—now show promise for tuberculosis (TB) therapy, according to new research published in Scientific Reports.

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.