K3: A Viral Cloak of Invisibility

K3 gene allows viruses to evade infection-killing cells

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Viruses manage to disable the body's immune response due to a key viral gene that inhibits important signaling cells and allows infections to slip in undetected.

Researchers in Australia have discovered the way viruses manage to avoid early detection by the body's immune system. Of particular interest are the immune system's dendritic cells, which act as watchdogs for the immune system. They play a key role in fighting chronic infection.

Dendritic cells are among the first to trigger immune response; they work by breaking up infectious cells into small pieces that are then attacked by killer T-cells. These T-cells kill tumor cells and those infected with viruses.

By studying a virus in mice that bears similarities to the human gamma herpes virus, Epstein-Barr Virus, a known cause of mono, scientists have identified a viral gene that inhibits the antigen-destroying processes of the dendritic cells that would normally kick-start the immune defense in the body.

The gene K3 essentially turns off the body's immune alarm system and allows the virus to sneak in undetected on the backs of the dendritic cells which lead it through the bloodstream.

The study is important because it shows how early viruses manage to escape detection and the important infection-fighting processes that are impeded by this K3 gene. Protecting the body's antigen-presenting dendritic cells can be a major component in creating more effective immune therapy and vaccines.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 5, 2011
Last Updated:
January 6, 2011