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Many proteins in biology exist in more than one form. Examples include ion channels that control electrical activity in the body, metabolic enzymes, and proteins called transcription factors that help control gene expression. In immune cells, one family of transcription factors, the NFAT family, is important in cell differentiation and activation. NFATs control the expression of genes that produce signaling molecules that help co-ordinate the activities of different immune cells and defective NFAT activation is linked to a range of human diseases. Immune cells express several different NFATs, and it has proved difficult to control selectively the activity of each protein.

Professor Anant Parekh’s group in DPAG have discovered how different NFAT proteins are controlled in cells. Their new findings, published in this month’s Molecular Cell (58, 232-243), demonstrate that different patterns of signal recruit different NFAT proteins. Their results open up the possibility for drugs aimed at targeting one NFAT protein and not another, allowing for selective therapeutic control of an immune response.

Read more (Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics website)