JERUSALEM, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- New discovery of bacteria immune system brought insight into treating autoimmune disease and even cancer, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel reported Thursday.
Israeli researchers found that humans and bacteria have the same defense mechanism in the immune system, and bacteria must continually protect themselves from viruses called phages that infect them, the report said.
In a study, published in the journal Nature, the researchers examined one of dozens of the bacterial immune defense mechanisms, a molecule called cyclic GMP-AMP (cGAMP).
This molecule is part of an immune system carried in every human cell, as each cell can activate it independently.
When a human cell detects a viral DNA, it generates cGAMP that leads to the activation of the interferon molecule, which in turn "calls" the immune system to help the infected cell.
The first ancient organisms that had cell nucleus were already equipped with this anti-viral mechanism.
However, unlike human cells, bacteria function as independent units and cannot recruit cells of the immune system.
The researchers therefore examined why bacteria need the cGAMP molecules.
It was found that the bacterial colonies in the lab dishes grew much better and were up to a thousand times more phage resistant when the four-gene system was present, and that the system appeared to protect against a broad range of phages.
The researchers also found that the bacterial mechanism senses the invasion of the virus and activates cGAMP production just like human immune system.
This mechanism protects the bacteria by causing them to induce suicide before the phages replicate and endanger the rest of the colony.
The researchers also found that other molecules that bacteria produced are part of anti-phage systems that work similarly to cGAMP.
These findings may also be relevant to human health, with the human version of this immune mechanism has been implicated in an autoimmune disease, in which it is overactive.
"If we can learn how to turn the immune response up or down, we might be able to use this insight to treat diseases," the researchers concluded.