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Rare hybrid cell key to regulating the immune system
Date:5/24/2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. - A cell small in number but powerful in its ability to switch the immune system on or off is a unique hybrid of two well-known immune cell types, Medical College of Georgia researchers report.

"This is actually the first cell we know of that has this type of appearance in nature," Dr. Andrew Mellor, molecular geneticist and immunologist who co-directs MCG's Immunotherapy Discovery Institute, said of the cell that looks like a dendritic cell and a B cell but isn't really either.

The discovery of this rare hybrid could have implications for the efficacy of new therapies that manipulate these two cell types to treat diseases such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

When MCG scientists first reported the human equivalent of this cell in Science in 2002, they called it a subset of the dendritic cell that clusters in high exposure areas such as the gut but also roams the body, looking for invaders like a virus or cancer. Dendritic cells show their find to T cells, telling them to ignore or attack by bringing trash-eating macrophages, natural killer cells and the like into the fight.

What seemed most unique about the subset is its ability to express indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase, or IDO, to turn off T cells. IDO is an enzyme used by fetuses and tumors alike to escape the immune response.

The new studies show that is only part of the cells' distinctiveness. The cells also have the identifying markings of B cells, known for their ability to make antibodies against invaders. In fact, they found the IDO-presenting cells came from the same precursor cell as B cells. But, when the scientists looked at mice missing B cells, they still found the IDO-producing cells. Hence, the cell didn't need to produce antibodies to turn off T cells.

In reality, IDO-expressing cells have properties of both cells, said Burles A. Johnson III, an MCG M.D.-Ph.D. student and first author of the paper published o
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

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