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: The origins of polarized nervous systems

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

The origins of polarized nervous systems

9 hours ago

(Phys.org)—There is no mistaking the first action potential you ever fired. It was the one that blocked all the other sperm from stealing your egg. After that, your spikes only got more interesting. Waves ...

New fat cells created quickly, but they don't disappear

14 hours ago

Once fat cells form, they might shrink during weight loss, but they do not disappear, a fact that has derailed many a diet. Yale researchers in the March 2 issue of the journal Nature Cell Biology descri ...

A single target for microRNA regulation

15 hours ago

It has generally been believed that microRNAs control biological processes by simultaneously, though modestly, repressing a large number of genes. But in a study published in Developmental Cell, a group ...

Sizing up cells: Study finds possible regulator of growth

Mar 02, 2015

Modern biology has attained deep knowledge of how cells work, but the mechanisms by which cellular structures assemble and grow to the right size largely remain a mystery. Now, Princeton University researchers ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.