Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Intestine crucial to function of immune cells, research shows

13.12.2011
Researchers at the University of Toronto have found an explanation for how the intestinal tract influences a key component of the immune system to prevent infection, offering a potential clue to the cause of autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

"The findings shed light on the complex balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut," said Prof. Jennifer Gommerman, an Associate Professor in the Department of Immunology at U of T, whose findings were published online by the scientific journal, Nature.

"There has been a long-standing mystery of how certain cells can differentiate between and attack harmful bacteria in the intestine without damaging beneficial bacteria and other necessary cells. Our research is working to solve it."

The researchers found that some B cells—a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies—acquire functions that allow them to neutralize pathogens only while spending time in the gut. Moreover, this subset of B cells is critical to health.

"When we got rid of that B-cell function, the host was unable to clear a gut pathogen and there were other negative outcomes, so it appears to be very important for the cells to adopt this function in the gut," said Prof. Gommerman, whose lab conducted the research in mice.

Textbook immunology—based mostly on research done in the spleen, lymph nodes or other sterile sites distant from gut microbes—has suggested that B cells develop a specific immune function and rigidly maintain that identity. Over the last few years, however, some labs have shown the microbe-rich environment of the gut can induce flexibility in immune cell identity.

Prof. Gommerman and her colleagues, including trainees from her lab Drs. Jörg Fritz, Olga Rojas and Doug McCarthy, found that as B cells differentiate into plasma cells in the gut, they adopt characteristics of innate immune cells—despite their traditional association with the adaptive immune system. Specifically, they begin to look and act like inflammatory cells called monocytes, while maintaining their ability to produce a key antibody called Immunoglobulin A.

"What intrigued us was that this theme—B cells behaving like monocytes—had been seen before in fish and in vitro. But now we have a living example in a mammalian system, where this kind of bipotentiality is realized," said Prof. Gommerman.

This B-cell plasticity provides a potential explanation how cells dedicated to controlling pathogens can respond to a large burden of harmful bacteria without damaging beneficial bacteria and other cells essential for proper function of the intestine.

It also may explain how scientists had failed to appreciate the multi-functionality of some B cells. "There are classical markers immunologists use to identify B cells—receptors that are displayed on their surface—and most of them are absent from plasma cells," said Prof. Gommerman. "So in some cases, what people thought was a monocyte could have been a plasma cell because it had changed its surface identity, although monocytes play an important role in innate immunity as well."

This transformational ability, the researchers also found, is dependent on bacteria called commensal microflora that digests food and provides nutrients. That relationship highlights the importance of the gut in fighting infection, and begs the question of whether plasma cells trained in the gut to secrete specific anti-microbial molecules can play a role in other infectious disease scenarios, such as food-borne listeria infection.

It also opens a line of investigation into whether a systemic relationship exists between those anti-microbial molecules and healthy cells in sites remote from the intestine. Understanding the nature of that relationship could improve understanding of inflammatory mechanisms in autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, in which immune cells attack and eventually destroy healthy tissue.

But the next step, said Prof. Gommerman, is to look at human samples for the same type of multi-potentiality they saw in rodent plasma cells that acquired their anti-microbial properties in the gut.

"We're really at the early stages of understanding what we call the microbiome in the gut," said Prof. Gommerman. "There is a role for plasma cells in many autoimmune diseases, and B cells can do a lot more than just make antibodies. We need to understand the full spectrum of their effects within the immune response."

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Research Fund, the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health.

About the University of Toronto

Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has assembled one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in breadth and depth on any other Canadian campus. U of T faculty co-author more research articles than their colleagues at any university in the US or Canada other than Harvard. As a measure of impact, U of T consistently ranks alongside the top five U.S. universities whose discoveries are most often cited by other researchers around the world. U of T faculty are also widely recognized for their teaching strengths and commitment to graduate supervision. www.utoronto.ca.

Jim Oldfield | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utoronto.ca

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal
14.11.2018 | Michigan Technological University

nachricht Spread of deadly eye cancer halted in cells and animals
13.11.2018 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

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

Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland

15.11.2018 | Earth Sciences

When electric fields make spins swirl

15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Discovery of a cool super-Earth

15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>