A recent Nature Immunology publication from the laboratory of Felix Yarovinksy, M.D., associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology, identified the protein S100A11 as an important player in initiating an immune response in Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) infected cells. T. gondii is the intracellular parasite responsible for toxoplasmosis that has infected about one-third of the global population. This parasite is particularly dangerous during pregnancy, as it may lead to stillbirth, early prenatal death, or serious health problems for the baby after birth, such as eye or brain damage.
"S100A11 may be an attractive novel adjuvant due to its unique ability to recruit proinflammatory monocytes," said Yarovinsky, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. "Importantly, we discovered S100A11 as a host defense protein against T. gondii, but it may have much broader implications not limited to toxoplasmosis and can be applied for a variety of vaccines." Adjuvants enhance the body's ability to mount an immune response, and S100A11 may provide a way to boost the efficacy of future vaccines for T. gondii as well as other intracellular infections.
Using human blood cells, the lab discovered that the molecule CCL2 is upregulated in cultured cells following infection with T. gondii. CCL2 is a protein that attracts monocytes to an infection to remove infected cells from the body. This led to the discovery that S100A11 triggers CCL2 production in response to intracellular pathogens as CCL2 is released only from infected cells.