Study describes key RNA epigenetic marker's role in immune system

August 11, 2017
A T cell is a type of white blood cell that fails to differentiate in mice lacking the m6A genetic marker. Credit: Yale University

The white blood cells known as T cells regulate our body's response to foreign substances—our adaptive immune response. In a new study, Yale scientists have learned how changes in a recently discovered RNA epigenetic marker regulate T cells and the immune response. Their finding could lead to new approaches to treating autoimmune diseases.

The Yale-led research team focused on an important genetic marker, m6A, which modifies RNA. Prior to this study, it was known that m6A affected RNA and stem cells, but its role in biology was not understood. To investigate, the researchers deleted one of the genes that produce m6A in T cells, and tested m6A-deficient mice using various mice disease models.

The researchers found that the m6A-deficient T cells lost the ability to differentiate, or further develop into specialized ; thus the cells were unable to cause autoimmune disease. The authors further revealed detailed molecular pathways that undermine T cell differentiation, which could have a profound impact on the research field, they said.

The finding provides new insight into this genetic marker's role in development and human health. It also points to the potential for developing drugs to target m6A to alleviate , said first author and immunobiologist Huabing Li.

Explore further: Trigger for autoimmune disease identified

More information: Hua-Bing Li et al. m6A mRNA methylation controls T cell homeostasis by targeting the IL-7/STAT5/SOCS pathways, Nature (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nature23450

Related Stories

Trigger for autoimmune disease identified

May 11, 2017
Researchers at National Jewish Health have identified a trigger for autoimmune diseases such as lupus, Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis. The findings, published in the April 2017 issue of Journal of Clinical Investigation, ...

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 ...

Preventing too much immunity

December 27, 2016
Scientists at the Immunology Frontier Research Center (IFReC), Osaka University, Japan, report a new molecular mechanism that could explain the cause of some autoimmune diseases.

New role discovered for a well-known gene in the survival of white blood cells

May 31, 2017
Researchers have clarified the role of a gene critical for the development of a type of white blood cells, known as B cells, which produce antibodies and serve as a "memory" for the immune system. This finding may open up ...

Scientists study how some insulin-producing cells survive in type 1 diabetes

February 9, 2017
A Yale-led research team identified how insulin-producing cells that are typically destroyed in type 1 diabetes can change in order to survive immune attack. The finding may lead to strategies for recovering these cells in ...

Cargo-carrying red blood cells alleviate autoimmune diseases in mice

March 6, 2017
Using red blood cells modified to carry disease-specific antigens, scientists in the laboratories of Hidde Ploegh (former Whitehead Member, currently Boston Children's Hospital) and Harvey Lodish (Whitehead Founding Member) ...

Recommended for you

Early trials show potential for treating hay fever with grass protein fragments

October 13, 2017
Protein fragments taken from grass can help protect hay fever patients from allergic reactions to pollen grains.

Researchers find mechanism for precise targeting of the immune response

October 13, 2017
The immune system checks the health of cells by examining a kind of molecular passport. Sometimes, cells present the wrong passport, which can lead to autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammations or cancer. Scientists of the ...

Enzyme behind immune cell response revealed

October 12, 2017
Monash University researchers have revealed the role played by an enzyme that is pivotal to the process of clearing infection in the body. Moreover, they suggest that the enzyme may be a potential target for drug development ...

Calcium lets T cells use sugar to multiply and fight infection

October 11, 2017
A calcium signal controls whether immune cells can use the nutrients needed to fuel their multiplication into a cellular army designed to fight invading viruses.

New genetic clue to peanut allergy

October 11, 2017
Canadian researchers have pinpointed a new gene associated with peanut allergy, offering further evidence that genes play a role in the development of food allergies and opening the door to future research, improved diagnostics ...

Novel immune cells control neurons responsible for fat breakdown

October 9, 2017
The biological causes underlying obesity have been under intense scrutiny, with studies suggesting a link between the nervous and the immune systems. Now, in a breakthrough study to be published in Nature Medicine on 9 October, ...

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.