A previously unknown serine protease forms part of the antibacterial defence arsenal of neutrophil granulocytes.
Neutrophil granulocytes comprise important defences for the immune system. When pathogenic bacteria penetrate the body, they are the first on the scene to mobilise other immune cells via signal molecules, thereby containing the risk. To this end, they release serine proteases – enzymes that cut up other proteins to activate signal molecules. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried have now discovered a new serine protease: neutrophil serine protease 4, or NSP4. This enzyme could provide a new target for the treatment of diseases that involve an overactive immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The functioning of the immune system is based on the complex interplay of the most diverse cells and mediators. For example, neutrophil granulocytes (a group of specialized white blood cells) react to bacteria by releasing substances called serine proteases. These enzymes are able to activate signal molecules, such as the chemokines, by cleaving them at a specific position on the molecule. The active signal molecules then guide other immune cells to the focus of inflammation in order to destroy the pathogens.