People also have antiviral 'plant defences'

Sep 27, 2010

In addition to known antiviral agents such as antibodies and interferons, people also seem to have a similar immune system to that previously identified in plants. This is the result of research carried out by Esther Schnettler with which she hopes to obtain her doctorate at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, on 27 September. Together with the group of Professor Ben Berkhout of the Academic Medical Centre (AMC) in Amsterdam, Schnettler discovered that a protein used by plant viruses to bypass plant resistance can also impair the defence against HIV viruses in people. Schnettler’s findings may open up new opportunities for improving health.

Plants defend themselves against viruses by attacking, deactivating and breaking down in a process called RNA silencing. Viruses try to bypass this defence by producing proteins that block it. Schnettler researched the functioning of these silencing suppressor proteins in plants, recognising that the improvement of plant defences would enable more sustainable cultivation by reducing the need for to combat insects and pathogens.

Schnettler also studied whether the silencing suppressor proteins that allow plant viruses to bypass plant defences could also have an influence on our immunity systems. We know that can detect the protein shells of viruses, which allow them to be broken down. Our bodies also protect themselves against viruses by releasing interferons that give a sign to cells to die, preventing the viruses within those cells from multiplying or spreading.

In cooperation with a group of scientists from the AMC, Schnettler found that HIV mutants which are unable to produce a specific protein (making it almost impossible for them to multiply) can start multiplying up to wild type virus titer levels when a silencing suppressor protein from a is added. This seems to suggest that people also have the defence against viruses used by plants against intruders and which detects and deactivates the genetic material of the HIV virus.

“The research has helped us to understand that the process of RNA silencing seems to be a widely occurring antiviral defence,” says Schnettler. “Our findings could offer new opportunities for developing antiviral medication. This is not yet certain, however, as the RNA silencing process in the human body has (additional) other functions that must not be impaired by medicines.”

Explore further: Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

Provided by Wageningen University

4.5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers Engineer Self-Destructing Virus

Jul 10, 2008

University of Arizona researchers have sown the seeds of a virus' destruction in its own genetic code – or rather, in the genetic code of the organisms it seeks to infect. Their work could improve both the ...

The genetic secrets to jumping the species barrier

Feb 11, 2010

Scientists have pinpointed specific mutations that allow a common plant virus to infect new species, according to research published in the March issue of the Journal of General Virology. Understanding the genetics of the ...

Whitefly spreads emerging plant viruses

Jan 18, 2007

A tiny whitefly is responsible for spreading a group of plant viruses that cause devastating disease on food, fiber, and ornamental crops, say plant pathologists with The American Phytopathological Society (APS).

Recommended for you

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

Apr 17, 2014

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...