ENP Newswire -
Release date- 23052014 -
When our bodies are under attack from foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, our immune system orchestrates a complex fight-back involving many separate parts. One important component of this response is a type of cell called the B-lymphocyte - it is this cell that is at the forefront of our defence as it identifies and attempts to neutralise invaders.
The B-lymphocyte produces a protein called the B-cell receptor on its surface. The receptor recognises and attaches itself to molecules from the invading organisms, known as antigens. This triggers the B-lymphocyte to divide and to release specialised proteins called antibodies which neutralise the antigens.
There are many aspects of this process that are still not well understood. One reason is because the B-cell receptor does not exist in isolation on the B-lymphocyte surface. Rather, it forms localised clusters together with a number of 'molecular neighbours'. It is these local interactions that control how the lymphocytes divide and replicate and determine the strength of the antibody response. A better understanding of these interactions could ultimately lead to better control of the immune response - for example in vaccine development. However, the molecular contacts within the clusters are relatively weak, and so they are technically difficult to identify.
Now, in an international collaboration, scientists at the
For this initial 'proof of principle' experiment, the researchers looked at the B-cell receptor on the surface of a chicken B-lymphocyte and identified molecules that were hitherto not thought to be involved in regulation of the receptor. They show that these molecules combine with the receptor to activate a class of proteins called integrins that are known to play an important role in the response of B-lymphocytes to antigens. Similar molecules occur on the human B-lymphocyte surface, and drugs active against integrins are already used to modulate the immune response. So a long-term implication of this work may be to identify new therapeutic targets for immune regulation.
Funding for the research included the
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