In a welcome development, scientists are now one step closer to understanding the mysteries of how our bodies mount an immune response to fight disease.
David Underhill, an associate professor in Cedars-Sinai's Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute and colleagues have discovered how a molecular receptor on the surface of white blood cells identifies when invading fungi have established direct contact with the cell surface and pose an infectious threat.
The receptor called Dectin-1 detects fungi and instructs white blood cells whether to expend the energy needed to devour the invading pathogens.
In early stages of infection, white blood cells patrol the body looking for invading pathogens. Dectin-1, a receptor on the surface of white blood cells, recognizes specific components of fungal cell walls, and alerts or "switches on" the immune cells to prepare to fight the infection.
The study helps explain how immune cells determine when pathogens are directly in contact with their surface and thus pose a significantly greater risk, demanding rapid destruction, the researchers said.
The findings were recently published in the journal Nature.