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Evolution in the antibody factory
Date:3/11/2013

several keys that do not yet fit properly. This changes in the course of a process that immunologists refer to as "somatic hypermutation": B cells mutate those gene segments that determine the design of both the surface molecule and the soluble variation thus influencing how strongly the antibodies attach themselves to the pathogens. Those cells, in which the optimal fit of the key increases, survive and multiply. They then produce the desired molecule in large quantities and thus help us to get healthy again.

But how do the immune cells know that they are on the right way with this arbitrary mutation process, i.e. that the key will fit better later on? Scientists from England, Germany and Switzerland have now been able to answer this question jointly in a collaborative project between Dr. Kai-Michael Toellner, University of Birmingham, and Prof. Michael Meyer-Hermann, Head of the Department Systems Immunology. They published their findings in the renowned Journal of Experimental Medicine. Meyer-Hermann makes use of mathematical models to understand diseases more thoroughly and quicker. "Systems immunology enables us to simulate, in a short amount of time, numerous experimental conditions," he describes his area of expertise. With the aid of such mathematical simulations followed by experimental examinations, the researchers discovered that the antibody producers advance their own evolution, which represents without a doubt an alignment with the enormous selection pressure that we are subject to due to a constant threat from pathogens.

The stage for this process is the so-called germinal centres within the lymph nodes. Here, the maturing B cells encounter the antigens. The researchers' results suggest that completed antibodies from all germinal centres re-appear at the sites of antibody production and bind there to pathogen fragments as well. They represent competition thereby for those cells that are still in the process of refining the
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Contact: Birgit Manno
Birgit.Manno@helmholtz-hzi.de
49-531-618-11411
Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research
Source:Eurekalert  

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Evolution in the antibody factory
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