Research highlight

Coping with immune cell death

Nature Immunology

September 8, 2008

Researchers have discovered a ‘sensor’ molecule that alerts the immune system to the presence of necrotic cells. The work, described online this week in Nature Immunology, shows how the body prevents excessive inflammation caused by non-infectious injuries and prevents uncontrolled tissue damage.

Poisons, ultraviolet light, radiation and other non-infectious injuries can lead to inflammation and necrosis ― the unnatural death of cells and tissue material. Takashi Saito and colleagues find that a receptor molecule called Mincle, expressed by macrophages, functions as a direct sensor for this type of cell death.

Mincle detects internal components of necrotic cells that are released into the surrounding milieu. This drives macrophages to produce a chemical signal, interleukin 8 that promotes infiltration of white blood cells called neutrophils into necrotic tissues. The neutrophils then help resolve inflammation caused by the necrotic debris.

doi: 10.1038/ni.1651

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