Scientists from University of Florida throw light on the effect of small pox on the human immune system.
The research team have come across a particular interaction between the proteins produced by smallpox virus in concert with human proteins that disables one of the body's first responders to injury - inflammation.
"This virus that has killed more humans than any other contains secrets about how the human immune system works," said Dr. Grant McFadden, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at the College of Medicine and a member of the UF Genetics Institute.
"I'm always amazed at how sophisticated these pathogens are, and every time we look, they have something new to teach us about the human immune system," he added.
During the study, the research team, along with colleagues from the University of Alberta, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a private company called Myriad Genetics, systematically screened the smallpox proteome - the entire complement of new proteins produced by the virus - during interactions with proteins from human DNA.
These protein-on-protein interactions resulted in a particularly devastating pairing between a viral protein called G1R and a human protein called human nuclear factor kappa-B1, which is believed to play a role in the growth and survival of both healthy cells and cancer cells by activating genes involved in immune responses and inflammation.
"One of the strategies of the virus is to inhibit inflammation pathways, and this interaction is an inhibitor of human inflammation such that we have never seen before," McFadden said.
"This helps explain some of the mechanisms that contribute to smallpox pathogenesis.
"But another side of this is that inflammation can sometimes be harmful or deadly to people, and we may learn a way to inhibit more dangerous inflammation from this virus," he added.
The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.