Newswise — Stony Brook, NY, September 16, 2016 – A team of scientists led by Stony Brook University researchers have discovered a new mechanism for a bacterial toxin to inhibit inflammation. Their research shows that a toxin in Yersinia pestis, the bacterial agent of plague, targets and inhibits the protein pyrin. The inherited autoinflammatory disease Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF) is caused by mutations that lead to continuous activation of pyrin. The findings, published in Cell Host & Microbe, can be used to better understand the genetic origins of FMF and explore new therapies for the disease.
“This finding is very significant because it may explain the natural selection process behind a chronic condition that affects a high prevalence of people originating around the Mediterranean Sea,” said James Bliska, PhD, lead author and Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. “In addition, the bacterial toxin hijacks human kinases to phosphorylate and inhibits pyrin, a process that could be translated into therapeutics for FMF.”
The hereditary inflammatory disease of FMF usually strikes individuals at some point in childhood and continues throughout adulthood. There are treatments but no cures, and complications such as arthritis and vasculitis can occur after many prolonged inflammatory episodes. Thousands of individuals from many ethnic origins of the Mediterranean, such as Armenians, Italians, Greeks and Arabs have FMF.
###About Stony Brook University Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University encompasses 200 buildings on 1,450 acres. Since welcoming its first incoming class in 1957, the University has grown tremendously, now with more than 25,000 students and 2,500 faculty. Its membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 100 universities in the nation and top 40 public universities, and Kiplinger names it one of the 35 best values in public colleges. One of four University Center campuses in the SUNY system, Stony Brook co-manages Brookhaven National Laboratory, putting it in an elite group of universities that run federal research and development laboratories. A global ranking by U.S. News & World Report places Stony Brook in the top 1 percent of institutions worldwide. It is one of only 10 universities nationwide recognized by the National Science Foundation for combining research with undergraduate education. As the largest single-site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook is a driving force of the regional economy, with an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion, generating nearly 60,000 jobs, and accounts for nearly 4 percent of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and roughly 7.5 percent of total jobs in Suffolk County.