By Russell Hodge
Tinkering with the CAR
Human cells produce a protein called the Coxsackie-adenovirus receptor, or CAR, which is mainly known for the trouble it causes. The protein sits on the surfaces of cells in the heart and other tissues, where it serves as a docking station for viruses. They use CAR to enter the cells and wreak havoc on the heart. CAR obviously didn’t evolve for the sake of viruses, but most of its healthy functions have been a mystery. Recent work by Michael Gotthardt’s group at the MDC now reveals crucial functions for the molecule in the development of the heart, communication between its cells, and the destructive effects of viral infections. The results come from a joint study between basic scientists at the MDC and clinical partners throughout Berlin, particularly Robert Fischer, of the Franz Volhard Clinic of the Charité, and Rene Jüttner, in Fritz Rathjen’s group at the MDC. The work has been published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. Taken together with an upcoming paper by the group, the results may yield a new strategy to treat some types of heart disease.