New research has found that lipid droplets in mammals can play a central role in the innate immune response. The research, which is a collaborative effort by Developmental and Cell Biology Professor Steven Gross and scientists from Australia, Brazil and Spain, was recently published in Science.
Lipids are a critical component of all cells and have a variety of functions. Specific accumulations of lipids, lipid droplets (LDs), within cells can be a nutritional target of many intracellular pathogens. In the new study, the research team built on previous work investigating LDs’ antibacterial properties in fly embryos. Using a mammalian system, the team replicated their previous findings and added new data showing that specific proteins involved in innate immunity can form complexes with LDs in response to bacterial lipopolysaccharide. The results helped alter the view of LDs’ role from passive energy suppliers to active host defense. The findings may also help in the development of novel antimicrobial therapeutics.