Colorado State microbiologists help identify cell membrane substance that could,,'boost' vaccines for tuberculosis, other diseases

FORT COLLINS--Two Colorado State University microbiologists have helped identify a substance produced by the tuberculosis bacterium that triggers an immune response in the human body.

The finding suggests that the substance in combination with vaccines could serve to enhance the ability of the bodies' immune response to fight tuberculosis and other microbial infections.

A report of the finding, published Friday in the journal Science, includes among its authors Patrick Brennan, professor of microbiology, and John Belisle, assistant professor of microbiology.

Working with researchers from UCLA and a number of other institutions, the Colorado State investigators undertook the specific task of identifying the lipoprotein, a molecule combining fat-like materials with protein, found in the cell walls of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

"Our role (at Colorado State) was actually in isolating the lipoprotein molecule from the tuberculosis bacilli, purifying it and then working closely with the UCLA group to show that this is what was stimulating interleukin-12 production," Belisle said. Interleukin-12, produced by the human body, initiates a cascade of chemicals that activate production of more white blood cells to combat invading bacteria.

"In practical terms, we think we may have isolated a natural adjuvant (vaccine booster) that can be included with subunit vaccines (those made with parts of bacteria, such as proteins) to push the immune system in the right direction," Belisle said.

By isolating and concentrating the lipoprotein producing the strongest reaction, Belisle and Brennan hope to add it to vaccines under development, including one by a Colorado State research team led by microbiologist Ian Orme. The combined effect should provide immunity against the growing threat of tuberculosis, which is affecting urbanites in underdeveloped areas, prison populations and those with alread

Contact: David Weymiller
Colorado State University

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