Scientists unearth cell 'checkpoint' that stops allergic diseases

August 9, 2017

Scientists from Trinity College Dublin have made a significant breakthrough in understanding the regulation of immune cells that play a pivotal role in allergic diseases such as asthma and eczema. They have identified a 'checkpoint' manned by these immune cells that, if barred, can halt the development of the lung inflammation associated with allergies.

The discovery now provides a potential new target for drug developers to home in on. In theory, a drug that successfully regulates this newly pinpointed 'checkpoint' would better control overly aggressive allergic responses.

The team of scientists was led by Science Foundation Ireland Stokes Professor of Translational Immunology, Padraic Fallon, of the School of Medicine in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute. The work has just been published in the leading peer-reviewed medical journal The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Allergic conditions, such as asthma or eczema, arise when the immune system misfires and sparks an uncontrolled response to common allergens, such as house dust mites. In asthma this aberrant immune response leads to infiltrating the lungs, where they cause inflammation that affects lung function and leads to difficulties in breathing.

One key cell that is an early initiator of this is known as a 'type 2 innate lymphoid cell' (ILC2). These instruct others, known as 'Th2 cells', to drive the cascade of inflammation in the lungs that leads to the development of asthma.

In this study, using a mouse transgenic approach, the scientists demonstrated that ILC2s express a checkpoint molecule, known as'PD-L1', that functions to control the expansion of allergy-inducing Th2 cells and the development of allergic pulmonary and gut tissue inflammation.

Professor Fallon said: "This identification of an early stage cellular checkpoint that can act as a break on allergic responses has important implications for the development of new therapeutic approaches for asthma and other ."

First author of the paper, Dr Christian Schwartz, a European Molecular Biology Organization Long Term Fellow in Professor Fallon's group, added: "It is fascinating that a small cell population such as the ILC2s can regulate the expansion of Th2 cells and thereby shape the whole outcome of an immune response - be it beneficial in case of parasitic infections, or detrimental as in the case of allergic responses."

"I believe the more we learn about these delicate cellular networks the more possibilities we will create for intervention."

Explore further: Testosterone explains why women more prone to asthma

More information: Christian Schwartz et al, ILC2s regulate adaptive Th2 cell functions via PD-L1 checkpoint control, The Journal of Experimental Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1084/jem.20170051

Related Stories

Testosterone explains why women more prone to asthma

May 8, 2017
An international research team has revealed for the first time that testosterone protects males against developing asthma, helping to explain why females are two times more likely to develop asthma than males after puberty.

Scientists collaborate in discovery of new targets for the treatment of asthma

February 27, 2012
A collaboration between scientists in Trinity College Dublin and the United Kingdom has identified new processes that lead to the development of a novel cell implicated in allergies. The discovery has the potential for new ...

Cells change type to help or hinder immunity

June 5, 2017
In news that may bring hope to asthma sufferers, scientists discover a mechanism that provides a possible new target for allergy treatments.

Scientists discover peptide that could reduce the incidence of RSV-related asthma

February 1, 2017
A research report published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology shows that it may one-day be possible to reduce the incidence of asthma related to infection with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Specifically, the researchers ...

Allergic asthma: Researchers identify a key molecule

October 13, 2015
Allergies are becoming more commonplace, particularly in industrialised coun-tries. In addition to hay fever, allergic asthma is currently considered to be one of the most widespread allergies. UFZ researchers and their colleagues ...

Key step in allergic reactions revealed

October 14, 2014
By studying the mode of action of the interleukin-33 protein, an alarmin for white blood cells, a team at the Institut de Pharmacologie et de Biologie Structurale (IPBS - CNRS/Université Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier) has ...

Recommended for you

The skinny on lipid immunology

October 20, 2017
Phospholipids - fat molecules that form the membranes found around cells - make up almost half of the dry weight of cells, but when it comes to autoimmune diseases, their role has largely been overlooked. Recent research ...

Bacterial pathogens outwit host immune defences via stealth mechanisms

October 20, 2017
Despite their relatively small genome in comparison to other bacteria, mycoplasmas can cause persistent and often difficult-to-treat infections in humans and animals. An extensive study by researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna ...

Scientists find where HIV 'hides' to evade detection by the immune system

October 19, 2017
In a decades-long game of hide and seek, scientists from Sydney's Westmead Institute for Medical Research have confirmed for the very first time the specific immune memory T-cells where infectious HIV 'hides' in the human ...

Tracing cell death pathway points to drug targets for brain damage, kidney injury, asthma

October 19, 2017
University of Pittsburgh scientists are unlocking the complexities of a recently discovered cell death process that plays a key role in health and disease, and new findings link their discovery to asthma, kidney injury and ...

Researchers release the brakes on the immune system

October 18, 2017
Many tumors possess mechanisms to avoid destruction by the immune system. For instance, they misuse the natural "brakes" in the immune defense mechanism that normally prevent an excessive immune response. Researchers at the ...

How cytoplasmic DNA triggers inflammation in human cells

October 17, 2017
A team led by LMU's Veit Hornung has elucidated the mechanism by which human cells induce inflammation upon detection of cytoplasmic DNA. Notably, the signal network involved differs from that used in the same context in ...

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.