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Molecule Manages Production of Antibacterial Agent Used By Immune Cells

Update Date: Jun 22, 2014 02:39 PM EDT

Researchers have discovered how a protein molecule in immune cells promotes the production of nitric oxide - a chemical capable of defending the body from bacterial attack - according to a new study. 

The protein might offer a target for reining in the inflammatory response which must be capable enough of fighting infection without damaging the tissue. 

NFATc3 is believed to be one of the several related protein molecules that play a role in regulating genes in the T and B cells of the immune system. Researchers were interested in knowing if it also had any function in macrophages (these are specialized killer cells that hunt down, engulf and destroy the marauding bacteria). 

"Without the ability to synthesize inducible nitric oxide synthase, a macrophage would be missing a key element of its chemical weaponry," said Ravi Ranjan, research scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, who is first author on the paper, in the press release. "We would expect these cells to be much less effective at killing bacteria and attenuating sepsis."

"Our study demonstrates that NFATc3 is required for macrophages to effectively fight infection, because without it, they can't make their primary bactericidal agent - nitric oxide," Ranjan said. 

The study has been published in the Journal of Innate Immunity.

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