Scientists at UT Austin have revealed how a protein called ISG15 helps the human immune system fight certain pathogens, including the microbe that causes tuberculosis. In 2012, the group was part of a study that demonstrated that ISG15 stimulates the release of a cytokine, Interferon-g, important in the response to pathogenic bacteria. With this latest work, published this week in the journal Molecular Cell, these scientists have identified the cell surface receptor for ISG15 and determined the initial steps in how it activates the secretion of a range of cytokines.
Jon Huibregtse, UT Austin professor of molecular biosciences who led the study, said this may provide new insights into how to modulate immune responses and treat microbial infections.
“We think we may be on the trail of an entirely new mechanism for stimulating cytokine secretion,” said Huibregtse, “and that this might have implications for a wide variety of infectious diseases.”