In a new paper published Jan. 21 in the journal Science, a team of researchers led by Microbiology and Immunology professor Blossom Damania, PhD, has shown for the first time that the Kaposi sarcoma virus has a decoy protein that impedes a key molecule involved in the human immune response.
The work was performed in collaboration with W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor, Jenny Ting, PhD. First author, Sean Gregory, MS, a graduate student in UNC’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology played a critical role in this work.
The virus-produced protein, called a homolog, binds to the cellular protein that normally triggers an inflammatory response, a key immune system weapon for fighting viral infection. However, the homolog lacks a key part of the cellular protein that triggers the inflammation process. Inflammasome activation leads to the production of proinflammatory cytokines and eventual cell death.