Nav: Home

WSU researchers see human immune response in the fruit fly

June 19, 2018

PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington State University researchers have seen how both humans and fruit flies deploy a protein that plays a critical role in their immune responses to invading bacteria. The discovery gives scientists a model organism with which to explore ways to boost the human immune system and create infection-fighting medicines.

Naturally, there are enormous differences between humans and fruit flies, whose common ancestor goes back 800 million years. But the immunity-triggering protein they share is nearly identical, said Alan Goodman, an assistant professor of the School of Molecular Biosciences and lead author of a paper in Cell Reports.

"The key, and what I think is most interesting about this, is the mechanism is the same," said Goodman.

The protein is called STING, or stimulator of interferon genes. Interferon fights infection, calling in white blood cells when an organism is under attack from viruses, bacteria or other pathogens.

Goodman and his colleagues exposed fruit flies to listeria, a pathogenic bacteria that can be found in contaminated food or water. They then documented how dmSTING, a protein genetically similar to human STING, mobilized the body's first (or "innate") immune response to the pathogen. The "dm" stands for Drosophila melanogaster, the fly's scientific name.

Research on humans and other animals is subject to numerous legal and ethical restrictions, but work on insects falls outside most of the animal care and use protocols required of WSU and other research institutions. Now if researchers want to learn more about, say, the autoimmune disease SAVI, for STING-associated vasculopathy with onset in infancy, they can try replicating the disease by using gene editing (for example, the CRISPR/Cas9 technology underpinning WSU's Functional Genomics Initiative) to put a mutant STING gene in the fruit fly, said Goodman.

Similarly, he said, researchers can knock out certain genes to deduce which ones are behind an immune response and look for therapies that can facilitate it to fight infection.

"There are 50,000 different strains of fruit fly already made that also have genetic mutations," said Goodman. "We can buy them or easily make our own, both of which we did for this paper. We can't do that with humans. We can use the fly to do those types of genetic experiments to really home in on a potential mechanism or understand a broader mechanism for how this protein functions."
-end-
Goodman's colleagues on the research are recent WSU undergraduate student and first author Marina Martin (B.S. '18), scientific assistant Aoi Hiroyasu, graduate student Marena Guzman and Assistant Professor Steven Roberts.

Washington State University

Related Bacteria Articles:

Conducting shell for bacteria
Under anaerobic conditions, certain bacteria can produce electricity. This behavior can be exploited in microbial fuel cells, with a special focus on wastewater treatment schemes.
Controlling bacteria's necessary evil
Until now, scientists have only had a murky understanding of how these relationships arise.
Bacteria take a deadly risk to survive
Bacteria need mutations -- changes in their DNA code -- to survive under difficult circumstances.
How bacteria hunt other bacteria
A bacterial species that hunts other bacteria has attracted interest as a potential antibiotic, but exactly how this predator tracks down its prey has not been clear.
Chlamydia: How bacteria take over control
To survive in human cells, chlamydiae have a lot of tricks in store.
Stress may protect -- at least in bacteria
Antibiotics harm bacteria and stress them. Trimethoprim, an antibiotic, inhibits the growth of the bacterium Escherichia coli and induces a stress response.
'Pulling' bacteria out of blood
Magnets instead of antibiotics could provide a possible new treatment method for blood infection.
New findings detail how beneficial bacteria in the nose suppress pathogenic bacteria
Staphylococcus aureus is a common colonizer of the human body.
Understanding your bacteria
New insight into bacterial cell division could lead to advancements in the fight against harmful bacteria.
Bacteria are individualists
Cells respond differently to lack of nutrients.

Related Bacteria Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#514 Arctic Energy (Rebroadcast)
This week we're looking at how alternative energy works in the arctic. We speak to Louie Azzolini and Linda Todd from the Arctic Energy Alliance, a non-profit helping communities reduce their energy usage and transition to more affordable and sustainable forms of energy. And the lessons they're learning along the way can help those of us further south.