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Proteins protect fruit flies from attacks by the immune system

Certain proteins protect fruit flies from damage caused by their own immune system. This finding by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) has potential medical applications, the EPFL wrote in a press release on Tuesday.

The international research team led by Bruno Lemaitre focused on the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and a protein family called Turandot, which is known to be released during stress. However, according to the researchers, the function of these proteins was previously unclear.

The immune system of fruit flies, which are often used as model organisms in biological research, uses so-called antimicrobial peptides (AMP) to destroy pathogens. They work by penetrating the cell membrane and destroying it. However, this can also unintentionally damage the wrong cells. Especially if the peptides are produced in large quantities, as the EPFL explained.

In their study, which was published in the journal "Current Biology", the researchers showed that the Turandot proteins bind to the cell membrane of certain cells in the body and thus protect them from the AMP.

Therapeutic options

According to the authors, this study is "the first to identify a class of molecules that protects animal cells from the effects of antimicrobial peptides".

According to the EPFL, the results suggest that similar protective mechanisms could also exist in other organisms, such as humans. This is because antimicrobial peptides are part of the innate immune response that occurs in all life forms.

According to the EPFL, this opens up new therapeutic possibilities. This is particularly true in cases where excessive activity of the immune system causes damage, as is the case with certain neurodegenerative diseases.

In addition to the EPFL researchers, scientists from Geneva, the UK and Japan were also involved in the study.

©Keystone/SDA

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