FEB 23, 2017 1:25 PM PST

"STING" Protein Activates As Immune Cells Recognize Viral DNA

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Scientists keep chipping away at the mysteries of the immune system, and this time in a new study published in Nature Communications, they discovered two new proteins involved in the innate immune response to foreign DNA.

A DNA virus has DNA as its genetic material and replicates using DNA-dependent DNA polymerase. Source: Tech Times

Immune cells might recognize DNA as foreign if it is cancerous or from a virus, and from the moment of recognition, cells burst into action, triggering a domino effect of reactions that begin with the production of interferon, signaling to nearby cells that foreign DNA is in their midst.

From a research team at Aarhus University, experts found a new protein playing vital role in the domino effect: “STING.” This protein acts as an immunological doorknob to initiate interferon and chemical messenger production in response to the detection of foreign DNA floating around outside of the cell.

During their study, researchers investigated the function of STING in immune cells called macrophages which engulf and destroy foreign invaders. One by one, they deleted macrophage genes to see if their absence had any effect on STING function. This is where they identified that the gene coding for another protein, called IFI16, was necessary for macrophages to produce interferon in response to tumor or viral DNA.

“IFI16, which most of our immune cells carry, has crucial significance for the cell's defense against microorganisms or dying cells' release of DNA," explained study researcher Martin Roelsgaard Jakobsen.

Comprehending the role of both IFI16 and STING has implications for cancer immunotherapy, new antiviral strategies, and even autoimmune disease treatment.

"STING's function and its degree of activity play a significant role in how well the body fights conditions when it is exposed to something that is foreign or abnormal such as infections and cancer," Jakobsen explained. "By using different molecular biological methods, we could clearly demonstrate that our immune cells only need a very small fraction of the IFI16 protein for STING to function optimally.”

Jakobsen and his team hope to develop new immunotherapy tactics based on manipulating STING within the next few years. The plan of action, he said, would be to “go directly in and boost the innate immune defense system in the cancerous tumor by using molecules that targets and triggers STING and IFI16 function.”

Source: Aarhus University

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 16, 2019
Health & Medicine
JUL 16, 2019
Rare Bone Marrow Manifestation in Sarcoidosis
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease with the hallmark diagnostic feature being non-caseating granulomas--clumps of immune cells including macr...
SEP 07, 2019
Immunology
SEP 07, 2019
A New Way To Fight Severe Peanut Allergies
Dr. Sandra Lin explains how SLIT is currently being used to treat allergies other than peanuts.    Over 1 million U.S. children have an allergy t...
SEP 24, 2019
Immunology
SEP 24, 2019
Flu Shot Less Effective Due to Overuse of Antibioitics
New research out of the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that the consequence of overuse of antibiotics lowers the effectiveness of the seasona...
NOV 27, 2019
Immunology
NOV 27, 2019
Playing "Tag" with the Immune System
Human cells employ an intricate tagging system to manage protein activity in the body. By “tagging” a protein with a certain modification, cell...
NOV 29, 2019
Immunology
NOV 29, 2019
Protecting Killer Immune Cells from Themselves
Destroying human cells compromised by viruses and cancer is the name of the game for so-called “killer” cells of the immune system. They employ...
DEC 20, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 20, 2019
A Natural Approach to Pain Management
In many instances, pain can be a rather useful tool. It informs individuals that something is amiss with their body and they should seek treatment. However...
Loading Comments...