Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

La Jolla Institute discovers new player critical to unleashing T cells against disease

24.06.2013
Nature-published study reveals previously unknown role of septin proteins

A major study from researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology provides new revelations about the intricate pathways involved in turning on T cells, the body's most important disease-fighting cells, and was published today in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.

The La Jolla Institute team is the first to prove that a certain type of protein, called septins, play a critical role in activating a calcium channel on the surface of the T cell. The channel is the portal through which calcium enters T cells from the blood stream, an action essential for the T cell's survival, activation, and ability to fight disease.

Patrick Hogan and Anjana Rao, Ph.D.s, are senior authors on the paper and Sonia Sharma and Ariel Quintana, Ph.D.s, are co-first authors. Drs. Sharma, Rao and Hogan are former researchers at Harvard Medical School with high-level genetics expertise who joined the La Jolla Institute in 2010. Dr. Quintana conducted advanced microscopy that was a major aspect of the study.

Dr. Hogan describes the discovery as another important step in understanding the overall functioning of T cells – knowledge from which new, more precisely targeted drugs to treat diseases ranging from cancer to viral infections can emerge. "It's like working on an engine, you have to know what all the parts are doing to repair it," he says. "We want to understand the basic machinery inside a T cell. This will enable us to target the specific pressure points to turn up a T cell response against a tumor or virus or to turn it down in the case of autoimmune diseases."

The findings were published in a Nature paper entitled "An siRNA screen for NFAT activation identifies septins as coordinators of store-operated Ca2+ entry."

"We have found that the septin protein is a very strong regulator of the calcium response, which is essential for activating immune cells," says Dr. Sharma, who was recently appointed to a faculty position, and now leads her own independent laboratory at the La Jolla Institute, in addition to serving as scientific director of the newly established RNAi screening center.

Dr. Hogan says the discovery took the research team by surprise. "We knew septins existed in the cellular plasma (surface) membrane, but we didn't know they had anything to do with calcium signaling," he says. Septins are known to build scaffolding to provide structural support during cell division.

This finding builds on Dr. Rao and Dr. Hogan's groundbreaking discovery in 2006 showing that the protein ORAI1 forms the pore of the calcium channel. The channel's entryway had been one of the most sought after mysteries in biomedical science because it is the gateway to T cell functioning and, consequently, to better understanding how the body uses these cells to fight disease.

To the research team's surprise, the septins were forming a ring around the calcium channel. "We aren't sure why, but we theorize that the septins are rearranging the cellular membrane's structure to "corral" the key proteins STIM and ORAI1, and maybe other factors needed for the calcium channel to operate," says Dr. Hogan.

Dr. Sharma adds that, "essentially we believe the septins are choreographing the interaction of these two proteins that are important in instigating the immune response." Without the septins' involvement, T cell activation does not occur.

In the study, the researchers devised a simple visual readout of activity in a main pathway responsible for activation of T cells— the same pathway that is targeted by the immunosuppressive drug cyclosporin A that is used clinically — and looked for impairment of the activity when individual genes were, in effect, deleted. After sorting through the roughly 20,000 human genes, they turned up 887 gene "hits," says Dr. Hogan.

With further experiments, they should be able to classify those hits into genes that affect the calcium channel itself and genes that act later in the pathway. "We are hopeful that one or more of these genes can be used as a clinical target for new drugs to treat transplant rejection and immune diseases, some of the same indications now treated with cyclosporine A," adds Dr. Hogan. He believes that a medication aimed at an early step of calcium entry through the ORAI channel could be more effective and have fewer side effects than cyclosporin A, which targets a later step in the pathway and can cause complications such as kidney disease.

About La Jolla Institute

Founded in 1988, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology is a nonprofit, independent biomedical research institute focused on improving human health through increased understanding of the immune system. Its scientists carry out research seeking new knowledge leading to the prevention of disease through vaccines and the treatment and cure of infectious diseases, cancer, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, Crohn's disease and asthma. La Jolla Institute's research staff includes more than 150 Ph.D.s and M.D.s. To learn more about the Institute's work, visit http://www.lji.org.

Bonnie Ward | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lji.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Researchers simplify tiny structures' construction drip by drip
12.11.2018 | Princeton University, Engineering School

nachricht Mandibular movement monitoring may help improve oral sleep apnea devices
06.11.2018 | Elsevier

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump

14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal

14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>