Two Nobel Laureates at Immunity Symposium; Innate Immune Mechanisms Apparent Among Flies, Plants, Mice and Humans
Dec. 13, 2011
UC DAVIS NEWS SERVICE-- Two winners of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine will join Pamela Ronald, UC Davis professor of plant pathology and Luke O’Neill, professor of biochemistry and immunology at Trinity College, Dublin on Wednesday, Jan. 25 for a symposiumon the links between how rice plants, flies and people fight off infections.
Even the tiny Drosophila plays a big role in host defense. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The symposium, “Evolution of Common Molecular Pathways Underlying Innate Immunity,” will run from 1-5 p.m. in the UC Davis Conference Center. Registration is free but pre-registration is required at http://conferences.ucdavis.edu/immunity.
Jules Hoffmann of the University of Strasbourg, France and Bruce Beutler of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas shared the Nobel prize for their groundbreaking discoveries on how the immune system is triggered to fight invaders. (The third recipient, Ralph Steinmann of Rockefeller University, died shortly before the prize was announced.)
“Their work has opened up new avenues for the development of prevention and therapy against infections, cancer, and inflammatory diseases,” wrote the Nobel committee, in announcing the prize.
In recent years, a remarkable evolutionary conservation of innate immune mechanisms has become apparent between flies, plants, mice and humans. Each of these species uses similar receptors to detect microbes. Therapeutic targeting of toll-like receptors for infectious and inflammatory disease and cancer and crop engineering of these receptors for resistance to infection is now a reality.
"The Drosophila Host Defense: A Model for the Study of Innate Immunity"
--Jules Hoffmann, University of Strasbourg, 2011 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
"Creating Immune Deficiencies by Random Mutagenesis in Mammals"
--Bruce Beutler, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, 2011 Nobel Laureaute in Physiology or Medicine
"The Rice XA21 Receptor Recognizes a Conserved Bacterial Signaling Molecule"
--Pamela Ronald, professor, Department of Plant Pathology, and faculty, UC Davis Genome Center
"Toll-Like Receptors and Inflammasomes: Key Drivers of Inflammatory Diseases"
--Luke O'Neill, professor, School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity College, Dublin
Registration (free, but registration is required)
Contact person: Anita Moore (530) 752-1245
Reception will follow.
The human immune system has two lines of defense. The innate immune system reacts first, attacking invading microbes and triggering inflammation. If that response fails, the adaptive immune system fights back with antibodies and specialized killer cells. Afterwards, the adaptive immune system retains a memory that allows a more rapid and powerful response if the same virus, bacterium or parasite comes back.
Only animals with backbones, from fish to humans, have an adaptive immune system. But all animals, including insects, have innate immunity. In the 1990s, Hoffmann, working with Drosophila flies and Beutler, working with mice, identified genes now called ‘Toll-like receptors’ that trigger innate immunity in these animals, and found that they were remarkably similar.
Around the same time, Ronald found a gene linked to disease resistance in rice, which also turned out to be a Toll-like receptor similar to those in flies and mammals, preserved across a billion years of evolution.
From this common trigger, plants, insects and animals develop different types of response to invaders. At the UC Davis symposium, Hoffman, Beutler and Ronald will talk about new discoveries and the parallels between flies, mice and plants, while O’Neill will discuss Toll-like receptors in humans and how they and other signaling molecules are linked to inflammation, a key step in innate immunity.
Activation of the immune system is not always a good thing. It can lead to allergy, inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or autoimmunity, when the body starts attacking its own tissues. The discovery of Toll-like receptors and related makes it possible to think about treatments to control these diseases, as well as making new and improved vaccines and engineering disease-resistant crops.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology