New ways viruses affect human immune response discovered

August 3, 2012, Trinity College Dublin

(Medical Xpress) -- New ways that viruses manipulate the human immune response have been revealed in a research paper just published in Nature involving TCD scientists. Dr Orla Mulhern and Professor Andrew Bowie, School of Biochemistry and Immunology based in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute were part of the multi-disciplinary, multi-centre study comprising immunologists, virologists, biochemists and bioinformaticians from across Europe.

This research is the most comprehensive study to date analysing strategies used by over 30 viruses to target defence networks in human cells, and provides many new insights into how viruses seek to avoid and weaken the immune response. The research findings could ultimately lead to the development of broad and specific antiviral therapies and new ways to treat patients with infectious diseases.

Scientists at the Centre for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (CeMM) gathered 70 viral genes known to modulate the immune response from collaborators across Europe, including Trinity, and systematically inserted these genes into human cells. The genes were derived from 30 different viruses, including poxviruses, herpesviruses, and . They then used to identify all the human proteins targeted by the products of the inserted genes, and bioinformatics to comprehensively analyse the viral- interactions. Collaborating labs, including Trinity, then verified and validated some of the most exciting new viral-human interactions discovered. 

Commenting on the significance of the research, Professor Bowie, Head of Immunology, School of Biochemistry and Immunology, TCD stated: “The data shows that viruses target a much wider array of cellular processes than was previously anticipated. At least some of these cellular processes will have important but previously unrecognised anti-viral roles. Thus follow-on studies in our lab and others will reveal new anti-viral immune defences operating in human cells. Also since we could identify both common and unique targets for viruses in cells, future work will also help towards designing antiviral therapies both for specific viruses and for broad classes of viruses.”

Explore further: Big picture of how interferon-induced genes launch antiviral defenses revealed

More information: Pichlmair, A., Kandasamy, K., Alvisi, G., Mulhern, O., Sacco, R., Habjan, M., Binder, M., Stefanovic, A., Eberle, C., Goncalves, A., Bürckstümmer, T., Müller, A., Fauster, A., Holze, C., Lindsten, K., Goodbourn, S., Kochs, G., Weber, F., Bartenschlager, R., Bowie, A.G., Bennett, K.L., Colinge, J. & Superti-Furga, G. 2012. Viral immune modulators perturb the human molecular network by common and unique strategies. Nature 487, 486-490.

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