A regulatory T cell that expresses three specific genes shuts down the mass production of antibodies launched by the immune system to attack invaders, a team led by scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reported online in the journal Nature Medicine.
"Regulatory T cells prevent unwanted or exaggerated immune system responses, but the mechanism by which they accomplish this has been unclear," said paper senior author Chen Dong, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's Department of Immunology and director of the Center for Inflammation and Cancer.
"We've identified a molecular pathway that creates a specialized regulatory T cell, which suppresses the reaction of structures called germinal centers. This is where immune system T cells and B cells interact to swiftly produce large quantities of antibodies," Dong said.
The discovery of the germinal center off-switch, which comes two years after Dong and colleagues identified the mechanisms underlying a helper T cell that activates the centers, has potential implications for cancer and autoimmune diseases.
"In some types of cancer, the presence of many regulatory T cells is associated with poor prognosis," Dong said. "The theory is those cells suppress an immune system response in the tumor's microenvironment that otherwise might have attacked the cancer."
However, in B cell lymphomas, overproliferation and mutation of B cells are the problems, Dong said. Hitting the regulatory T cell off-switch might help against lymphomas and autoimmune diseases, while blocking it could permit an immune response against other cancers.
Antibody production central
Germinal centers are found in the lymph nodes and the spleen. They serve as gathering points for B and T cell lymphocytes, infection-fighting white blood cells.
When the adaptive immune system detects an invading bacterium or virus, B cells present a piece of the invader, an antigen, to T cells. The antigen converts a naïve T cell to a helper T cell that secretes cytokines, which help the B cells expand and differentiate into specialized antibodies to destroy the intruder.
"Germinal centers have mostly B cells with a few helper T cells to regulate them. The B cells mutate to make high-affinity antibodies and memory B cells for long-term immunity. The cell population in the germinal center structures replicates in an average of several hours, one of the fastest rates of cell replication known in mammals," Dong said.
Tracking down specialized T cell
In the Nature Medicine paper, Dong and colleagues found that a subgroup of regulatory T cells that expresses two genes, Bcl-6 and CXCR5, moves into germinal centers in both mice and humans, where they have access to B cells.
(Bcl-6 produces a protein called a transcription factor, which moves into the cell nucleus to regulate other genes. CXCR5 is a receptor protein for a signaling molecule called CXCL13.)
They also found that the Bcl-6/CXCR5 T cells aren't produced in the thymus, with other T cells, but are generated by regulatory T cell precursor cells that express Foxp3, another transcription factor.
Knocking out the regulatory T cells that express all three proteins in mice resulted in increased germinal center production of antibodies. They named this key T cell the T follicular regulatory cell, or Tfr.
In a 2009 paper in the journal Science, the researchers found that naïve T cells that expressed Bcl-6 and CXCR5 also gathered in the B cell zone of germinal centers. Expression of Bcl6 converted the T cell into a T follicular helper (Tfh) cell that launches antibody production in the germinal centers.
With Tfr turning germinal centers off and Tfh turning them on, we could potentially regulate antibody production, Dong noted. Increasing Tfr production could be a new approach to treating autoimmune inflammatory disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
The team's research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, MD Anderson, the American Heart Association, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Clinical Scientist Development Award and the China Ministry of Science and Technology Protein Science Key Research Project.
Co-authors with Dong are first author Yeonseok Chung, Ph.D., Shinya Tanaka, Ph.D., Roza Nurieva, Ph.D., Gustavo Martinez, Yi-Hong Wang and Joseph Reynolds, Ph.D., of MD Anderson's Department of Immunology and the Center for Cancer Immunology; Chung also is with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Institute of Molecular Medicine; Seema Rawal and Sattva Neelapu, M.D., of MD Anderson's Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma, also of the Center for Cancer Immunology; and Ziao-hui Zhou, M.D., Hui-min Fan, M.D., and Zhong-ming Liu, M.D., of Shanghai Dong Fang Hospital, Shanghai, China.
About MD Anderson
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston ranks as one of the world's most respected centers focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. MD Anderson is one of only 40 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. For eight of the past 10 years, including 2011, MD Anderson has ranked No. 1 in cancer care in "America's Best Hospitals," a survey published annually in U.S. News & World Report.
Scott Merville | EurekAlert!
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences