When the immune system identifies a cell that needs to be eliminated, such as a virus-infected cell or cancer cell, natural killer cells descend and puncture the offending cell, injecting toxic enzymes to spell its doom.
At the centre of this immune response is a crucial protein called perforin, which is responsible for forming a pore in the diseased cell.
This notion has been understood for over a century, but now researchers from Melbourne and London have identified the mechanism by which this process unfolds.
Perforin punching pores through a cell membrane, allowing granzyme toxins to move into and destroy the cell. (Image credit: Mike Kuiper, VPAC)