Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Investigating the immune system

07.01.2013
Immune cells undergo complex processes during their development. If errors occur, the consequences for those who are affected can be fatal. Scientists from the University of Würzburg have now uncovered new details of what happens. These could be a target for new therapies.
As recently as a few decades ago, the following response was feared: following an organ transplant, the patient’s immune system recognizes the transplanted organ as “foreign” and therefore attacks and rejects it. It was not until the discovery, nearly 30 years ago, that the mycotoxin cyclosporin A can prevent the rejection of a transplanted organ that this response lost its capacity to terrify.

“In T cells, which are important cells in the immune system, cyclosporin A inhibits the activation of a group of transcription factors called NFAT factors,” explains Professor Edgar Serfling, a researcher at the University of Würzburg’s Institute of Pathology. At the time, this finding was tantamount to a “revolution in transplantation medicine”. “Thousands of patients owe their lives to cyclosporin A and the inhibition of NFAT factors,” says Serfling.

Now Serfling, his Research Associate Amiya K. Patra, and other scientists at the University of Würzburg have uncovered new details of the interaction between transcription factors and immune cells. Their work has just been published online in the journal Nature Immunology.

The development of T cells

To enable T cells to recognize transplanted organs or pathogenic viruses and bacteria as foreign material, they first have to be “educated”. This education takes place in the thymus – hence the name T cells. There, the immigrant progenitor cells of the cells later known as thymocytes are subjected to various selection processes in which NFAT factors also play an important role. “If errors occur in these processes, this often leads to autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and rheumatism,” explains Serfling. In multiple sclerosis, for example, autoreactive T cells in the brain attack the myelin sheaths of nerve cells, causing the fatal symptoms of this disease.

In the thymus, thymocyte progenitors develop special receptors on their surface where the body’s own transmitter interleukin 7 (IL-7) can dock. After it has docked, IL-7 transmits signals that activate or deactivate numerous genes in the cells. The progenitor cells subsequently divide and evolve into mature thymocytes.
New insights into the development process

As Amiya Patra has now revealed, NFAT factors also play a significant part in these processes: “If a specific NFAT factor is deactivated in mice, the thymocytes remain in their earliest stage of development and no thymus is created,” explains Serfling. However, if the early steps of thymocyte development that are controlled by IL-7 proceed without disruption, the cell soon forms other receptors that are important to its development and the IL-7 receptor disappears.

Though it is not just the absence of the NFAT factor that disrupts cell development; an excess also messes up the process: the development of thymocytes stops, but at a later stage in this case, and again with fatal consequences: “Specific progenitor receptors are created in an uncontrolled manner, with the result that the person affected develops leukemia, and NFAT factors play a critical role in this too,” explains Serfling.

Approach for new therapies

Through their work the Würzburg team has demonstrated that NFAT factors are critically involved not only in the recognition of the body’s own tissue and in immune responses, but also in the “education” of T cells in the thymus. They therefore represent a target structure that will play a key role in therapies for autoimmune diseases and leukemia in the future.

“An alternative NFAT-activation pathway mediated by IL-7 is critical for early thymocyte development”. Amiya K Patra, Andris Avots, René P Zahedi, Thomas Schüler, Albert Sickmann, Ursula Bommhardt & Edgar Serfling; Nature Immunology, doi:10.1038/ni.2507

Contact

Prof. Dr. Edgar Serfling, T: +49 (0)931 31-81207,
e-mail: serfling.e@mail.uni-wuerzburg.de

Robert Emmerich | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona

nachricht Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Metallic nanoparticles will help to determine the percentage of volatile compounds

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Shallow soils promote savannas in South America

20.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>