PITTSBURGHUsing a new fluorescent biosensor they developed, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have discovered how a key set of immune cells exchange information during their coordinated assault on invading pathogens. The immune cells, called dendritic cells, are harnessed by cancer vaccines and other therapeutics used to amplify the immune system. The finding, published online March 29 in the journal Angewandte Chemie, marks the first time that scientists have visualized how antigens are transferred in the immune system between dendritic cells.
"Knowing the mechanism behind what's going on in these dendritic cells how they are talking to each other in order to amplify the immune response is of fundamental significance," said Marcel P. Bruchez, associate professor of biological sciences and chemistry in the Mellon College of Science.
Dendritic cells are specialized immune cells that search for and capture foreign micro-organisms like bacteria, allergens or viruses. The cells engulf the invading organism and break it down into pieces. The dendritic cell then places these pieces, called antigens, on its cell surface.
When a dendritic cell presents antigens on its surface, it instructs other immune cells to multiply and scour the body in search of the harmful micro-organisms. Dendritic cells also can share antigens with other dendritic cells to boost immune cell activation. While scientists knew that antigens from one dendritic cell could show up in another dendritic cell, they didn't know how those antigens got there.
To determine the precise mechanism by which dendritic cells transfer antigens to each other, the research team used a new pH-biosensor developed at Carnegie Mellon's Molecular and Biosensor Imaging Center (MBIC). The biosensor is made up of two components: a fluorogen activating peptide (FAP), which is genetically expressed in a cell and tagged to a protein of interest, and a dye called a fluor
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Carnegie Mellon University