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A Protein to Help The Immune System

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University have found that the enzyme SPPL3 activates T cells, which defend the immune system.

Because the enzyme’s structure is similar to that of presenilin enzymes, which have been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, a university news release said, the researchers’ finding could shed more light on how presenilin functions, in addition to providing new insight into how the immune system is controlled.

The study was published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology.

The researchers studied the process by which a protein called NFAT helps to prepare T cells for battle against malicious invaders. They found that SPPL3 increased NFAT’s activity cells.

The discovery represents a further understanding of SPPL3’s function. “SPPL3 is a relatively uncharacterized protein that had never before been implicated in immune system function,” said Joel Pomerantz, an associate professor of biological chemistry. “It opens up a whole new set of scientific questions.”

According to a university news release, Pomerantz said that SPPL3 could be used as a drug target to either enhance the activation of T cells in immunodeficient individuals or to suppress it in those with overactive immune systems.

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