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Specialized white blood cells coordinate first responders to viral infection
Date:4/24/2008

ng an attack on germs that have just invaded the body" Do regulatory T cells temporarily lose their suppression ability in reaction to viral-sensing mechanisms or other signals" In the recent Science Express study, researchers looked for a role for regulatory T cells during the start of a herpes simplex virus infection in mucus membranes.

When regulatory T cells are deficient in mice, the herpes simplex virus replicates rapidly in the mucus membranes and spreads to the spinal cord. Upon closer examination of these mice that lack regulatory T cells, the researchers found very little interferon, an anti-viral chemical that also boosts the immune response, at the infection site, even though it was found in the draining lymph nodes.

Also in the lymph nodes they noticed a sharp increase in certain chemokines, chemicals that stimulate immune cells to move in and cause inflammation. The presence of chemokines appeared to encourage the entry and retention of certain infection-fighting cells in the lymph nodes draining the site of infection, an ineffective place for the infection-fighting cells to be during the start of a viral attack.

The researchers also noticed a delay in killer cells, dendritic cells (the cells that capture and present foreign proteins to other immune cells), and T cells arriving at the site of infection, where they were supposed to go earlier to fulfill their virus-fighting roles. The researchers suggested that a possible reason for this tardiness is an alteration in the chemical cues necessary for these cells to migrate to the site of infection.

The authors described the finding of an immune-response promoting role for regulatory T cells during the early stages of a local infection as "unexpected," considering the cells' suppressor roles during later stages of an immune response.


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Contact: Leila Gray
leilag@u.washington.edu
206-685-0381
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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