A group of Taiwanese researchers have discovered a new molecule that contributes to immune tolerance.
The molecule, Deltex1, can switch on or off T cells, which identify, attack and destroy infectious agents, Lai Ming-zong (賴明宗), a researcher at Academia Sinica, told a press conference yesterday.
Previous studies have focused mainly on how T cells are activated, but knowledge was insufficient on the molecular process underlying T cell anergy, a state in which the body becomes unresponsive to antigens, said Lai, who is the research group’s team leader.
By conducting tests on mice, Lai’s team found that Deltex1 inhibited T cell activation. It is upregulated when T cells are not responding to antigens.
Upregulation is the process by which a cell increases the quantity of one of its components.
Researchers also found that transgenic expression of the molecule weakened T cell activation.
Transgenic means having genetic material in cells, that includes a gene or DNA sequence, transferred by means of genetic engineering from a genetically unlike organism.
On the contrary, deficiency of Deltex1 increases T cell activation, and leads to resistance to anergy induction, enhanced autoantibody generation and increased inflammation.
Lai said the results of their study, which was published in the July 17 issue of the immunology journal Immunity, are expected to contribute to the future development of immunological therapy.
An example is the suppression of rejection in organ transplants and the treatment of autoimmune diseases by inducing T cell anergy, Lai said.