Imperial College London

New research comparing human and bat immune response to viral infections

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Bats in a tree

Research into a bat antiviral protein, IFITM3, offers insights on human immune response and details bat antiviral effectiveness.

A collaborative study led by Dr Camilla Benfield, featuring research conducted by Dr Markus Ritzefeld in the Tate group, has been published in Life Science Alliance.

Bats have been shown to harbour a larger-than-expected number of viruses, including zoonotic viruses. The research in this study focused on understanding a bat antiviral protein IFITM3, that is also found in humans. Human IFITM3is known to restrict viruses as part of the innate immune response. An evolutionary analysis of mammalian IFITM3 proteins identified a key region in the bat protein, that is shared with humans and mice.

The analysis showed that the key region features variations in a specific spot, and further biological experiments found that mutation of this critical codon altered the cellular location of the bat protein. Further investigation revealed that mutation of the bat protein affected the addition of fatty acids to neighbouring areas of the protein, and that the antiviral effectiveness was reduced.

Congratulations to the team for this publication in an area that has been thrust into the global spotlight!

The research conducted in the Tate lab was supported by CRUK and the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union.

Main article bat photo taken by Otto G.

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Edward Bartlett

Edward Bartlett
Department of Chemistry

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