During her time at McMaster University, Henrick worked with professor Kenneth L Rosenthal and Lead Research Scientist Xiaodan Yao investigating the innate and adaptive mucosal immune responses against HIV infection. Henrick was first author on "HIV-1 structural proteins serve as PAMPs for TLR2 heterodimers significantly increasing infection and innate immune activation," published in Frontiers in Immunology.
The article details a novel function of Toll like receptor (TLR) 2, which before this paper was classically considered only a bacterial pattern recognition receptor (PRR). PRRs play a critical role in the early recognition of pathogens and are largely responsible for activating innate immunity and shaping subsequent adaptive immune response" Henrick writes. The recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) by TLRs triggers a "signaling cascade" of production of anti-viral proteins that affect the behavior of cells.
"The main impact of our research highlights a previously undescribed mechanism by which HIV directly induces cellular activation leading to increased infection in both cell lines and primary cells," Henrick said.
In this paper, the authors identify novel interactions between TLR2 and HIV that will likely have important implications for our fundamental understanding of HIV-mediated immune activation and pathogenesis, and may lead to important advances in HIV-directed therapies.