How the immune system curbs its own mistakes

When we encounter a pathogen, the immune system is usually able to respond quickly and forcefully to protect us from infection. Some of its preparedness is inherent in the process by which white blood cells called B cells make antibodies, proteins fine-tuned to recognize a specific invader. Within structures called germinal centers, B cells undergo many mutations to diversify—and when a pathogen attacks, those cells making the most potent antibodies are singled out and start multiplying quickly.

This system carries a risk, however: if not kept in check, the high mutation rates of B cells, along with their rapid proliferation, may destabilize the genome and lead to cancer.

In recent findings published in Science, Christian Mayer, a postdoctoral fellow in Michel Nussenzweig's laboratory, shed light on how the dangerous behavior of B cells is curbed by apoptosis, a process that programs cells to die. The researchers found that apoptosis is controlled differently within two zones of the germinal center, and high rates of apoptosis keep the size of these structures stable over time.

These findings could provide clues for developing prevention or treatment strategies for certain categories of lymphoma, cancers that arise in .


Explore further

Genetic control of immune cell proliferation

More information: Christian T. Mayer et al. The microanatomic segregation of selection by apoptosis in the germinal center, Science (2017). DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2602
Provided by Rockefeller University
Citation: How the immune system curbs its own mistakes (2018, January 11) retrieved 17 January 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-01-immune-curbs.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

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