SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2016

Study finds birds may lack important anti-inflammatory protein

Birds may be missing an anti-inflammatory protein that is important in the immune systems of many animals, according to a study recently published in American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology.

Tristetraprolin, also known as TTP, plays an anti-inflammatory role, mostly in keeping the protein tumor necrosis factor alpha in check. Studies found that mice bred without TTP develop chronic inflammation that can affect their entire bodies.

Researchers with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that birds have no analog for TTP in their immune systems. The research team comprehensively searched for TTP in birds by checking bird genes for sequences that were similar to other animals' genes for TTP, exposing chicken cells to protein from other animals and a molecule from bacteria and looking at which genes were active when chicken cells were exposed to foreign proteins and bacteria. Despite the search, the authors of the study could not find a bird analog to TTP.

The scientists said that future researchers will need to determine how birds handle immune challenges differently compared to reptiles, mammals and other animals that make TTP.

"From an immunological standpoint, it will be both interesting and important to determine how birds cope differently with the environmental and microbiological assaults that stimulate the acute innate immune response in mammals," the authors said. "This will be important to understand, both to protect birds from infections, and to protect man from bird-transmitted (viruses)."