A difficult task: The immune system needs to differentiate between the body's own components and foreign agents. It has to fight pathogens and tumor cells, while at the same time refraining from attacking its own organism.
If it mistakenly does target body tissues, this gives rise to so-called autoimmune diseases. These include rheumatism, certain types of diabetes or a skin condition, called psoriasis, to name a few examples.
In order to keep a healthy balance, the immune system needs to control the activity of its numerous components in a very precise way. The regulatory T cells play a major role in this process. The fact that these cells suppress any faulty activation of the immune system has been known for just about ten years. In patients with autoimmune diseases, there is a shortage of these cells while in cancer patients there are often too many of them.
Regulatory T cells: targets for therapies
What do these cells do, how do they control the immune response? Many scientists around the globe would like to find out – this is because the regulatory T cells are interesting targets for new therapies. For instance, there is hope that a better immune response against cancer can be achieved if these cells are temporarily switched off or the symptoms of autoimmune diseases might be alleviated by activating the cells.
Chemical messengers are pumped into "normal" T cells
The characteristics of regulatory T cells are also examined by the study group of Professor Edgar Serfling at the Institute of Pathology of the University of Würzburg. Together with scientists at the University of Mainz, the Würzburg researchers discovered an interesting fact in 2007: Regulatory T cells can communicate with "normal" T cells of the immune system by creating small connecting tunnels between them and pumping the chemical messenger cAMP into the latter.
In response to this, the "normal" T cells stop dividing and halt the production of pro-inflammatory substances. This slows down the activity of the entire immune defense, which is a quite desirable effect in case of an autoimmune disease.
New findings published in PNAS
How exactly do regulatory T cells switch off normal T cells? This is described by Würzburg and Mainz researchers in a current study published in the scientific journal PNAS. In the normal T cells, the transmitted chemical messenger cAMP causes an increased production of a protein that suppresses a large number of genes. "This also includes the NFATc1 gene and consequently the production of pro-inflammatory interleukins is stopped," explains Professor Serfling.
This newly discovered process represents a very important step in the regulation of the immune system. Next, the scientists are going to clarify further molecular details. Their findings might contribute to the future development of new treatments for autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Results as a product of a Collaborative Research Center
The results were obtained within the joint project of the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) Transregio 52, titled "Transcriptional Programming of Individual T Cell Subsets". The Würzburg researchers Martin Väth and Josef Bodor were the driving forces behind the publication. They were provided assistance at the Institute of Pathology by Friederike Berberich-Siebelt and Edgar Serfling.
Edgar Serfling is the spokesperson for this CRC initiative, in which the Universities of Würzburg and Mainz cooperate with the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The German Research Foundation has funded the CRC since July 2008 with a grant of about 12 million euros, allocated over an initial period of four years.
"Regulatory T cells facilitate the nuclear accumulation of inducible cAMP early repressor (ICER) and suppress nuclear factor of activated T cells c1 (NFATc1)", Martin Väth, Tea Gogishvilib, Tobias Bopp, Matthias Klein, Friederike Berberich-Siebelt, Stefan Gattenlöhner, Andris Avots, Tim Sparwasser, Nadine Grebe, Edgar Schmitt, Thomas Hünig, Edgar Serfling and Josef Bodor. PNAS, published online on 24 January 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1009463108
Prof. Dr. Edgar Serfling, Institute of Pathology at the University of Würzburg, phone +49 931 201-47431, email@example.com
Robert Emmerich | idw
North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich
Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein
22.03.2018 | Universität Basel
An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.
The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News
22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences