During a viral infection, our immune system produces potent antiviral molecules which are hugely important for restoring us to health. However, if made at the wrong time these molecules can be damaging, leading to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Our antiviral response must therefore be tightly controlled so that we are protected against infection but do not suffer from autoimmune disease.
Ageing is characterised by a decline in function at both the cellular and organismal level and is the major risk factor for several neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. One of the key cellular processes that is affected during ageing is the transport system that nerve cells use to deliver components to different locations.
Cytoplasmic dynein-1, a protein that transports cargos along microtubule tracks throughout the cell, binds to dynactin and cargo adaptor proteins to carry its cargos over long distances. Various cargos use different adaptors to recruit dynein for transport. Until now, it has not been clear whether all cargos recruit dynein in the same way and how different cargo adaptors act.
Previous work from KJ Patel’s group in the LMB’s PNAC Division revealed that aldehydes – such as acetaldehyde, a by-product of alcohol metabolism – can damage our DNA. Further research by the group showed that our cells are protected against these toxic aldehydes using a two-tier protection system: enzymes that remove these aldehydes (tier-1) and DNA repair that fixes the damage they cause (tier-2).