How autoimmune disease is prevented—mechanism discovered

November 1, 2016

A previously unknown safety mechanism in our immune system keeps the body free from autoimmune diseases. Researchers from Karolinska Institutet have discovered that a cell in our inherited immune system can prevent our adaptive (learned) immune system from reacting to the body's native cells, which can otherwise lead to autoimmune diseases such as SLE. The study is published in the academic journal Nature Immunology.

Autoimmune diseases and allergies, in which the immune system triggers an immunological reaction in sufferers, are becoming increasingly common. In some cases, such as the rheumatic disease SLE, the immune system reacts to the body's own cells. One of the most important components of our learned (adaptive) immune system is the called B , which are one of the main causal factors of many autoimmune diseases, including SLE, since it is these cells that start to react to the body's native structures, giving rise to the symptoms.

"Our research group has been interested in B lymphocytes and what goes wrong in the regulation of different types of autoimmune disease," says Professor Mikael Karlsson at the Department of Microbiology, Cell and Tumour Biology.

It has long been known that a certain type of cell in the inherited immune system called a neutrophil plays an important part in wound healing and the early stages of the . Through their studies on laboratory mice, the team from KI has now discovered that neutrophils have another crucial function in their interaction with B lymphocytes. What they found was a safety mechanism that prevents B lymphocytes from reacting to endogenous antigens.

"We have discovered a previously unknown mechanism in the immune system that prevents autoimmune disease and that could be lacking, we think, in people with autoimmune diseases such as SLE," says Professor Karlsson.

When an inflammation occurs in the body, the neutrophils cause the B lymphocytes in the spleen to start producing antibodies that retard an infection. At the same time, however, the neutrophils also communicate with a kind of immune cell called an NKT cell, instructing it to regulate the response to prevent over-reaction.

It is known that SLE patients do not have as many NKT cells as other people, which could be a contributing factor to the failure of the body to regulate B lymphocytes.

"Apart from our discovery being interesting in general terms of how the immune system works, it can also be very important for people with other ," says Professor Karlsson. "We think that this mechanism could be used to regulate B lymphocytes in different morbid conditions and that it could be a way forward for stopping SLE."

Explore further: Battle hymns and lullabies: Scientist sheds light on the T cell orchestra

More information: Thomas Hägglöf et al. Neutrophils license iNKT cells to regulate self-reactive mouse B cell responses, Nature Immunology (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ni.3583

Related Stories

Battle hymns and lullabies: Scientist sheds light on the T cell orchestra

October 27, 2016
In research published in the prestigious journal Immunity, a Saint Louis University researcher reports new findings that help understand how the immune system's dendritic cells direct other immune cells called T lymphocytes ...

Scientists discover new mechanism regulating the immune response

June 28, 2013
Scientists at an Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence have discovered a new mechanism regulating the immune response that can leave a person susceptible to autoimmune diseases.

Researchers discover the cause of coeliac disease

June 30, 2015
Professor Ludvig M. Sollid and his colleagues at the University of Oslo have found the cause of coeliac disease. To do so required really going into depth, right down to molecular level. 

New class of molecules play key role in influencing the immune system

August 24, 2016
In a study published online this week in Science Translational Medicine, investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome report that resolvins and maresins, molecules produced in the ...

Sensitive balance in the immune system

April 11, 2014
Apoptosis is used by cells that are changed by disease or are simply not needed any longer to eliminate themselves before they become a hazard to the body—on a cellular level, death is part of life. Disruption of this process ...

A newly discovered mechanism controls the number of immune cells

September 22, 2015
The proteins CD47 and SIRPα are fundamental to establishing a correct number of immune cells, so-called B lymphocytes. This according to a dissertation by Shrikant Shanital Kolan from Umeå University in Sweden.

Recommended for you

Study identifies a new way to prevent a deadly fungal infection spreading to the brain

August 16, 2017
Research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered a way to stop a deadly fungus from 'hijacking' the body's immune system and spreading to the brain.

Genetic variants found to play key role in human immune system

August 16, 2017
It is widely recognized that people respond differently to infections. This can partially be explained by genetics, shows a new study published today in Nature Communications by an international collaboration of researchers ...

Biophysics explains how immune cells kill bacteria

August 16, 2017
(Tokyo, August 16) A new data analysis technique, moving subtrajectory analysis, designed by researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology, defines the dynamics and kinetics of key molecules in the immune response to an infection. ...

How a nutrient, glutamine, can control gene programs in cells

August 15, 2017
The 200 different types of cells in the body all start with the same DNA genome. To differentiate into families of bone cells, muscle cells, blood cells, neurons and the rest, differing gene programs have to be turned on ...

Scientists identify gene that controls immune response to chronic viral infections

August 15, 2017
For nearly 20 years, Tatyana Golovkina, PhD, a microbiologist, geneticist and immunologist at the University of Chicago, has been working on a particularly thorny problem: Why are some people and animals able to fend off ...

Clustering for health

August 15, 2017
When functioning appropriately, the immune system protects against multiple threats such as pathogens, disease-causing microbes, and tumors. However, when the immune system is inappropriately activated, it attacks the body, ...

0 comments

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.