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Fibroblast, epithelial and endothelial cells are more than just the scaffold of an organ — it emerges that they communicate with immune cells and are primed to launch organ-specific gene-expression programs for antiviral defence.
Immune-system responses to disease-causing agents rely on a complex web of interactions between immune cells that are underpinned by robust regulatory mechanisms. Most of our understanding of the immune system revolves around these cells, yet cells generally thought of as having a mainly structural role can also respond to invading organisms. Writing in Nature, Krausgruber et al.1 report a multi-organ examination of gene-expression programs for such structural cells in mice, revealing the roles of these cells in signalling networks used for defence purposes. The authors found that the response of structural cells to external invaders is regulated and tailored to the particular organ in question.