Immunology

Viruses Are (I)FIT To Be Tied

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Science  24 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6037, pp. 1483-1485
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6037.1483-d
CREDIT: PICHLMAIR ET AL., NAT. IMMUNOL. 12, 10.1038/NI.2048 (2011)

The immune system is constantly surveying the body for signs of infection, but how can it distinguish viruses from self? Viruses can be distinguished from self because their nucleic acids contain specific characteristics, such the triphosphorylated RNA (PPP-RNA), that are not found in the nucleic acids of host cells. The molecules that recognize these viral structures, however, are still being identified. Pichlmair et al. carried out a screen to identify proteins that interact with PPP-RNA and identified several members of the IFIT family of interferon-stimulated proteins. In response to antiviral interferons, IFIT proteins formed a molecular complex with other family members and RNA-binding proteins. Subsequent biochemical and genetic analysis focused on IFIT1 and found that, although it did not appear to be involved in the initial detection of the virus, it was highly induced in response to antiviral interferons and was required for keeping viral growth in check in cultured cells and in mice infected with vesicular stomatitis virus. Although IFITs have been previously associated with inhibition of protein translation, the authors presented data consistent with IFIT1 functioning by sequestering viral nucleic acids within the cell.

Nat. Immunol. 12, 10.1038/ni.2048 (2011).

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