Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine demonstrated that a bacterial toxin from Staphylococcus aureus shuts down the ion channel’s control mechanism in immune-cell membranes.
The ion channels in immune cells called Kv1.3 channels allow only potassium ions to pass. This activity triggers an immune response. Researchers studied frog eggs that were engineered to have particular voltage-gated ion channels in their membranes.
They found that removal of phosphate head groups from some membrane lipids by the bacterial toxin called sphingomyelinase (SMase) C shuts down the Kv1.3 channel.
The study is published in the February 14 issue of Nature.