Researchers discover key to immune cell's 'internal guidance' system

University of British Columbia researchers have discovered the molecular pathway that enables receptors inside immune cells to find, and flag, fragments of pathogens trying to invade a host.

The discovery of the role played by the molecule CD74 could help immunologists investigate treatments that offer better immune responses against cancers, , and lead to more efficient vaccines.

The findings are published in this week's edition of .

"This could ultimately lead to a blueprint for improving the performance of a variety of vaccines, including those against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria," says UBC biologist Wilfred Jefferies, whose lab conducted the study. "This detailed understanding of the role of CD74 may also begin to explain differences in immune responses between individuals that could impact personalized medical options in the future."

CD74 is an important piece of inside dendritic cells – which regulate mammalian primary immune responses. possess specialized pathways that enable them to sense and then respond to foreign threats. Until now no one has been able to piece together the circuitry which enables a cellular receptor – Major Histocompatability Class I (MHC I) – inside the cells to find and 'collide' with foreign invaders.

The key finding of this work is the discovery of the guiding role played by CD74 to link MHC I receptors to compartments containing invading pathogens within the immune cell. This sophisticated circuit allows the immune cell to recognize and signal the presence of a pathogen in the body and to alert T immune fighter cells. The T-cells respond by dividing and attacking infected cells, destroying the pathogen.

Jefferies' team used 'knock-out' mice that had been genetically modified to lack the CD74 function to uncover the role of the molecule. The team--which includes research associate Genc Basha, postdoctoral fellow Anna Reinicke, graduate students Kyla Omilusik and Ana Chavez-Steenbock1, undergraduate student Nathan Lack, and technician Kyung Bok Choi –then confirmed their findings using biochemical analysis.

More information: The Nature Immunology study is available at: dx.doi.org/10.1038/ni.2225

Related Stories

CD74 serves as a survival receptor on colon epithelial cells

Jul 30, 2010

CD74 is a protein expressed by cells of the immune system. A research group in Israel finds that CD74 is expressed on colon epithelial cells of mice, as well as on a malignant cell line from mouse colon. Stimulation of CD74 ...

New origin found for a critical immune response

Mar 01, 2009

An immune system response that is critical to the first stages of fighting off viruses and harmful bacteria comes from an entirely different direction than most scientists had thought, according to a finding by researchers ...

Recommended for you

Could trophoblasts be the immune cells of pregnancy?

Dec 18, 2014

Trophoblasts, cells that form an outer layer around a fertilized egg and develop into the major part of the placenta, have now been shown to respond to inflammatory danger signals, researchers from Norwegian University of ...

Moms of food-allergic kids need dietician's support

Dec 18, 2014

Discovering your child has a severe food allergy can be a terrible shock. Even more stressful can be determining what foods your child can and cannot eat, and constructing a new diet which might eliminate entire categories ...

Multiple allergic reactions traced to single protein

Dec 17, 2014

Johns Hopkins and University of Alberta researchers have identified a single protein as the root of painful and dangerous allergic reactions to a range of medications and other substances. If a new drug can ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Cynical1
not rated yet Feb 06, 2012
Another important "bit" in the long "byte" of knowledge.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.