Research Press Release

Tragic ending for mutant immune cells

Nature Immunology

March 1, 2010

A new mutant mouse that cannot sustain immune responses is described in a study published online this week in Nature Immunology.

"Elektra" mice are a special mutant strain that readily succumb to bacterial and viral infections. Immune cells in Elektra mice develop normally and become activated upon infection; however, unlike immune cells in normal mice, Elektra immune cells die soon after their activation. As a result, Elektra mice are immunodeficient, and die from any infection.

Bruce Beutler and colleagues identify a mutation in the gene called Schlafen-2 as responsible for the immune defect seen in Elektra mice. How the protein encoded by Schlafen-2 promotes survival of activated immune cells is not yet known. The scientists note, however, that several pox viruses encode Schlafen-like genes, suggesting that viruses might have appropriated a similar activity to perpetuate survival of viral-infected host cells.

DOI:10.1038/ni.1847 | Original article

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