According to scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a protein in mice known as RGS13 suppresses allergic reactions, including the severe, life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Because RGS13 is also a protein found in humans and is expressed in only a limited number of cells – including the immune system’s mast cells that are central to allergic reactions – scientists believe the protein may be an attractive target for developing new drugs to treat and prevent certain allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.
“We still do not know what triggers the allergic or anaphylactic reaction in some people,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “These findings open up important research avenues, such as examining the role of RGS13 protein in humans to determine if its deficiency or abnormal function triggers the mast cells to release chemicals that cause allergic diseases.”
The research, led by Kirk M. Druey, M.D., senior investigator, at the Laboratory of Allergic Diseases at NIAID, is described in a report online in Nature Immunology.
According to Dr. Druey, the study is also important because for the first time, researchers have shown that RGS13 inhibits the activity of PI3 kinase, an enzyme involved in many biological processes, including those involved in cancer and diabetes. Therefore, the research has implications for numerous other diseases and medical conditions in addition to allergies.
Next, the NIAID team will analyze the expression of RGS13 in human mast cells in healthy individuals and in people with allergy or anaphylaxis, search for specific gene mutations in these populations, and determine whether abnormal expression or function of RGS13 correlates with specific allergic diseases.