Magazine article USA TODAY

Long-Ignored Enzyme Fights Bacteria

Magazine article USA TODAY

Long-Ignored Enzyme Fights Bacteria

Article excerpt

An enzyme that long has been considered relatively useless to the immune response instead has an important role in setting up immune cells to kill infection-causing bacteria, indicates research in Immunity. Scientists have determined that this enzyme, called caspase-11 in mice--the parallel enzyme in humans is a combination of caspases 4 and 5--enables components in immune cells to fuse and degrade the bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease, a type of pneumonia. Without that fusion and degradation, these bacteria thrive, grow, or replicate and cause illness. Whether the effect is the same in other bacteria remains unknown.

The researchers determined that Legionella pneumophila bacteria somehow suppress activation of caspases 4 and 5 in human cells but, if the enzymes are added back into immune cells, they set off the same fusion events--those also seen in mice --that will kill the bacteria.

The findings could lead to the development of nonantibiotic drugs designed to fight certain bacterial infections by activating these caspases. …

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