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Biological Chemistry

Immunity Is A DNA Space Odyssey

Immunology: Right-sized DNA arrays are needed to amplify production of the immune-system protein interferon

by Stu Borman
June 15, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 24

An international research team has discovered requirements that must be met for biomolecules or nanoparticles to induce production of protective immune proteins. The finding could lead to autoimmune disease therapies and new ways to turn the immune system on and off. When entering immune cells, viral DNA, bacterial DNA, or DNA from a person with an autoimmune disorder can interact with toll-like receptors. The interaction boosts production of interferons, which are signaling proteins that activate immune responses. In the new study, scientists have found that the process is set off only when biomolecules, small organic molecules, or nanoparticles organize the invasive DNA inside immune cells into liquid-crystalline arrays with spacing matching that of toll-like receptor binding sites. The study was conducted by Jure Dobnikar of Beijing University of Chemical Technology and of the University of Cambridge; Michel Gilliet of Lausanne University Hospital, in Switzerland; Gerard C. L. Wong of the University of California, Los Angeles; and coworkers (Nat. Mater. 2015, DOI: 10.1038/nmat4298). Michael Zasloff of Georgetown University says the study shows “the structural requirements for full activation are rather specific, rather than the more or less amorphous picture we had previously.”


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