Scientists identify a key protein for regulating immune response

Associate Professor Boyoun Park
Department of Systems Biology,
Yonsei University

■ Life Sciences /

Scientists identify a key protein for regulating immune response

Research reveals a brain development protein plays a critical role in the body’s immune response.


Researchers collaborating across multiple institutions in South Korea have shown that a DNA-binding protein, previously known for its role in early brain development that helps sustain an effective immune response.

A team led by Prof. Boyoun Park found that the cellular nucleic acid-binding protein (CNBP) bound to many genes that influence our immunity, including those associated with a sustained immune response. The study, titled “CNBP acts as a key transcriptional regulator of sustained expression of interleukin-6,” has been published in Nucleic Acids Research.

“A role for CNBP in immune response is very exciting but not entirely surprising,” comments Prof. Park, a highly cited faculty member in the Department of Systems Biology, Yonsei University, Seoul. Subsequent experiments confirmed that not only did CNBP directly stimulate the initial response of these immune genes, which included interleukin 6, an important factor for the development of cells that fight infections, but it also activated its own expression later in response to persistent infection.

CNBP, a protein first identified as a key player in forebrain development is important for initiating and maintaining the body’s immune response to infection

However, the loss of CNBP rendered zebrafish, which was used as a model of immune response in this study, highly susceptible to infection by Shigelia flexneri, a bacterium that causes dysentery in humans.

“Our findings provide critical insight into the newly identified role of CNBP in the timely control of immune gene expression to promote appropriate host responses to infection” says Prof. Park.

Interestingly, CNBP is only present at low levels in the mammalian gut, which serves as an interface with the resident microbial community, the “microbiome”, promoting immune tolerance of beneficial microorganisms such as those marketed as probiotics for health maintenance and enhancement. The authors of this study also suggest that the gut may deliberately dampen the effect of CNBP, to avoid increased inflammatory responses such as those associated with inflammatory bowel disease, which can lead to tissue damage and cancers.

Importantly, atypical CNBP activity might be associated with inflammatory disease. Prof. Park notes “Our findings provide insights into the molecular pathologies of autoimmune diseases and various cancers and we hope these results can be used to facilitate the development of improved therapeutic strategies for these diseases.”

Updated in Dec 2017

Find Out More

Title of original article:CNBP acts as a key transcriptional regulator of sustained expression of interleukin-6
Journal: Nucleic Acids Research
DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkx071
Contact corresponding author:Boyoun Park ( bypark@yonsei.ac.kr ); Ji Eun Lee ( jieun.lee@skku.edu ); Sungwook Lee ( swlee1905@ncc.re.kr )