Scientists have revealed the importance of autophagy?a process in which cells ‘eat’ and degrade their own internal contents?in defence against harmful intracellular bacteria.
Previous work linking autophagy with resistance to dangerous bacteria was performed in cells in culture dishes, but experiments failed to identify germ sensors capable of triggering the process.
Online this week in Nature Immunology, Shoichiro Kurata and colleagues show that in fruit flies, PGRP-LE?a protein capable of recognizing specific bacterial components?is required for the induction of autophagy after infection with an intracellular bacterium. This induction of autophagy is also necessary for survival of infected flies.
Whether similar sensors exist and link bacterial infection with autophagy in mammalian cells remains to be determined.