A new mechanism regulates type I interferon production in white blood cells

    MONTREAL, Jan. 12 /CNW Telbec/ - A study from a team of researchers led
by Dr. Andrew P. Makrigiannis, Director of the Molecular Immunology Research
Unit at the IRCM, has identified a new mechanism regulating interferon
production. This discovery, co-authored by scientists from the International
Medical Center of Japan (Tokyo), the National Cancer Institute at Frederick
(Maryland) and the McGill Centre for the Study of Host Resistance, was
published on December 22, 2008 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
    The plasmacytoid dendritic cell (pDC) is a type of white blood cell. The
primary function of this cell type is to produce type I interferon when the
body is infected by a virus. The pDC has special surface receptors that can
detect many types of viruses. Type I interferon is thus very important for the
clearance of a viral infection. "Working with mice, we have identified a
mechanism that regulates the amount of interferon that is produced by pDCs,
explains Dr. Makrigiannis. That mechanism is a protein-protein interaction
between surface receptor Ly49Q and the class I major histocompatibility
complex (MHC) molecule."
    It is known that viruses often cause a decrease of class I MHC molecules
on cells. The team of scientists believes that the reason for this may be to
stop interferon production by the pDCs. Thus, class I MHC recognition by Ly49Q
on pDCs is necessary for the optimal activation of innate immune responses in
    The discovery of this molecular strategy will very likely have a great
impact in virology, and could eventually help physicians develop better
therapeutic strategies to fight the infectious diseases afflicting their
    This work was supported by an operating grant from the Canadian
Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Lee-Hwa Tai is supported by a CIHR
Cancer Training Program scholarship. Simon Bélanger is supported by a Fonds de
la recherche en santé du Québec scholarship. Andrew P. Makrigiannis is
supported by a New Investigator Award from the CIHR.

    Reference: Tai LH, Goulet ML, Bélanger S, Toyama-Sorimachi N, Fodil-Cornu
N, Vidal SM, Troke AD, McVicar DW, and Makrigiannis AP. (2008) Positive
regulation of plasmacytoid dendritic cell function via Ly49Q recognition of
class I MHC. J. Exp. Med., December 22; 205: 3187-3199.

    The online version of this article is available at:

    Dr. Andrew P. Makrigiannis is Director of the Molecular Immunology
    Research Unit at the IRCM. He is Associate Researcher in the Department
    of Medicine at the Université de Montréal and is also Associate Member in
    the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and in the Department of
    Medicine, Division of Experimental Medicine at McGill University.

    Established in 1967, the IRCM (www.ircm.qc.ca) now has 35 research units
    specialized in areas as diverse as systems biology, immunity and viral
    infections, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, cancer, medicinal
    chemistry, clinical research and ethics. It has a staff of more than 450
    people. The IRCM is an independent institution, affiliated with the
    Université de Montréal and has built, over the years, a close
    collaboration with McGill University.

For further information:

For further information: Andrew P. Makrigiannis, Ph.D, Director of the
Molecular Immunology Research Unit, (514) 987-5627,
Andrew.Makrigiannis@ircm.qc.ca, www.ircm.qc.ca/en/recherche
statique/unite12.html; Lucette Thériault, Communications Director, (514)
987-5535, lucette.theriault@ircm.qc.ca; www.ircm.qc.ca

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Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)

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