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Scripps Research scientists show how memory B cells stay 'in class' to fight different infections
Date:5/7/2012

LA JOLLA, CA May 7, 2012 Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have made an important discovery about the internal programming of B cells, the immune cells that make antibodies against infections. The finding opens the way for the development of vaccines that can work more efficiently and hints at therapies for conditions in which B cells cause harmsuch as the autoimmune disease lupus erythymatosus, severe allergies, and B-cell lymphomas.

The discovery reveals that B cells produce special proteins to maintain themselves in a particular functional "class," even as they lie dormant in the memory-cell state, awaiting a new infection. The class of a B cell determines how its antibodies marshal other components of immunity, and thus how well they can remove a certain type of threat, say bacteria on the skin versus intestinal parasites.

"This is a real breakthrough, in the sense that we now have a much better understanding of how B cell class is regulated, and how we might target that regulatory process in vaccine and drug design," said Michael McHeyzer-Williams, a Scripps Research professor who was the principal investigator for the study, published in Nature Immunology's advance online edition on May 6, 2012.

Specialized Infection Fighters

Young, "nave" B cells begin their careers as infection fighters when they are exposed, in the right way, to pieces of an invading microbe that happen to match their main receptor (the B cell receptor, or BCR). Some then become plasma B cells, and slowly ramp up the active production of antibodies. Others instead become memory B cells, which can lie in wait for years, primed to respond very rapidly and nip in the bud any reinfection.

Either way, as B cells move out of the nave state, helper T cells secrete chemical signals that typically force the B cells into particular classes. IgG-class B cells are the most common in humans, and are broadly effective against
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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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