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Protein helps immune cells to divide and conquer
Date:3/8/2009

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a key protein that is required for immune cells called B lymphocytes to divide and replicate themselves. The rapid generation of large numbers of these immune cells is critical to the body's antibody defense mechanism. However, when B cells grow unchecked, it can lead to immune cell cancers such as multiple myeloma or, when they grow to attack the wrong targets, to autoimmune disease. By discovering the role of the CD98hc protein, scientists may find new therapy targets for such diseases.

The study from the laboratory of Mark H. Ginsberg, MD., professor of medicine, will be published online March 8 in advance of print in Nature Immunology. It describes why CD98hc is essential in order for B lymphocytes to transition into antibody-secreting cells. It also describes how this relates to the protein's role in the signaling ability of integrins a large family of adhesion molecules that transfer information between the inside and outside of a cell.

According to first author Joseph Cantor, PhD, UC San Diego School of Medicine, scientists have known for nearly 25 years that CD98hc, common to all vertebrates, probably played a role in their adaptive immune system, but it wasn't known how this protein functioned.

"This protein was used as a marker of activation because it was found in low levels on resting lymphocytes," said Cantor. "But when B or T lymphocytes were stimulated by antigens for instance, to protect the body against bacteria levels of CD98hc went up 20 fold."

The scientists generated a mouse model lacking the CD98hc protein in B lymphocytes. When vaccinated, these mice were unable to mount a normal antibody response to the pathogen. Cantor says this was the first clue to the researchers of the protein's importance.

"In purifying B lymphocytes without the CD98hc protein, we discovered that the lymphocytes
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Contact: Debra Kain
ddkain@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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