Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Seemingly suicidal stunt is normal rite of passage for immune cells

22.10.2008
Researchers have shown that self-induced breaks in the DNA of immune cells known as lymphocytes activate genes that cause the cells to travel from where they're made to where they help the body fight invaders.

Scientists have known for two decades or more that lymphocytes can break their own DNA in this fashion, creating splits in both of the two strands. However, the new finding is the first to link such serious damage to activation of genes not directly involved in the cells' attempts to either fix the harm or self-destruct to stop themselves from becoming cancerous.

When genes are activated is critical to the ability of cells to take on specialized roles in the body, and the finding, published online in Nature, left researchers wondering if other developmental pathways in different cell types are also triggered by DNA damage.

"It's also interesting to note that the cell sees the genetic material of some invaders, such as DNA viruses, as damaged DNA," says senior author Barry Sleckman, M.D., Ph.D, director of the Division of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine and an expert in DNA repair. "Could pathogens be taking advantage of these pathways outside of the previously recognized responses to DNA damage? We don't know yet."

The finding immediately improved scientists' understanding of ataxia telangiectasia, a rare genetic disorder that, among other symptoms, can weaken the immune system. Patients with the disorder have a mutation in a gene, ATM, that normally helps the cell sense DNA damage.

"This explains why the lymphocyte counts in these patients drop so sharply," Sleckman says. "Not only is the cell's ability to repair DNA damage slowed down, the lymphocytes can't activate the genes that get them to where they need to be."

Cells have built-in safeguards that regularly look for DNA damage. They can then repair it, or if that's not possible, push the cell to self-destruct. Both mechanisms help prevent DNA damage from turning a cell cancerous. For years, scientists assumed that a cell would view a break in both strands of DNA as serious damage and commit to self-destruction.

To their surprise, immunologists discovered two decades ago that breaking DNA was the source of one of the immune system's great strengths. Human DNA contains only 30,000 human genes, but the immune system makes proteins known as antibodies that recognize billions of different foreign substances. Immunologists showed that this was because lymphocytes create double-strand DNA breaks that allowed them to splice together their genetic materials in new ways. Material created from the new genetic combinations is used to generate antibodies and other defensive mechanisms that help the body defend itself against a much greater variety of invaders.

Sleckman wanted to examine the implications of DNA breaks in lymphocytes. In a cell line developed in his lab, researchers induced double-stranded breaks in lymphocyte DNA using the same enzymes the cells normally use to create the breaks. They then analyzed the genes activated as a result.

As expected, the breaks turned on two groups of genes: one, headed by the p53 protein, pushes the cell toward self-destruction; the other, headed by the NFKappa-B proteins, pushes for survival of the cell and repair of the damaged DNA. These groups of genes are normally activated in any cell that experiences DNA damage.

But Sleckman and his colleagues also found several lymphocyte-specific genes activated by the breaks.

"Several of these genes are involved in the migration and homing of lymphocytes," says Sleckman. "Lymphocytes are made in the bone marrow and the thymus, and they have to move to other niches, including the lymph glands, to do their work."

In addition to the young lymphocyte, scientists are aware of other instances where DNA is normally and regularly broken, such as the replication of DNA during cell division or the creation of reproductive cells like the sperm and the egg. Ionizing radiation and chemotherapy drugs also can cause similar damage to DNA. Finally, DNA strands from infectious agents that enter the cell can mimic damaged host DNA.

"It's entirely possible that some of these breaks are activating genetic mechanisms that are unrelated to DNA repair or cell survival, like the mechanisms we identified in lymphocytes," says Sleckman. "Understanding the broader scope of the cells' responses to DNA damage could potentially be important in a wide variety of contexts."

Michael C. Purdy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu

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

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>