A team of Monash University researchers has discovered the importance of a protein, which could improve the way the drug interferon is used to strengthen the human immune system.
Published online in the prestigious journal Immunity, the findings show that the protein promyelocytic leukemia zinc finger (PLZF) is a key player in the body's immune response to disease, increasing our understanding of the function of the immune system.
Team leader, Professor Bryan Williams, at the Monash Institute of Medical Research, said the findings demonstrate a role for PLZF, not previously recognised, that shows the protein is key to the body's immunologically important interferon response.
"We have shown that interferon stimulates an association between PLZF and cofactors to switch on a decisive subset of interferon-stimulated genes, including those involved in protection against viral infections," Professor Williams said.
Interferon is a naturally produced substance that modulates the immune response and provides protection against viral infections and cancer. It has been developed as a drug over many years and has been used in the treatment of hepatitis, cancer and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.
Although much has been learned about the mechanism of action of interferon, the reason that some patients are more sensitive to treatment with interferon than others has proved difficult to identify.
"The results described in the study provide new insights into the mechanisms regulating the action of interferon, and demonstrate that PLZF is an important factor in the immune response and could therefore be used as a possible drug target for both anti-viral and anti-tumour therapy," Professor Williams said.
The paper can be found online at the Immunity journal website.
Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.