Researchers Discover How Dangerous Immune Reactions Are Prevented by Dying Cells
Human cells that die in the body can keep the immune
system in check, thus preventing unwanted immune
responses against the body's own tissues. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center have now identified a receptor on murine immune c
ells that activates this protective mechanism and can thus prevent dangerous autoimmune
reactions in which the immune
system attacks the patient's own body tissues.
Typically, billions of cells die every day in the human body and this occurs as part of a highly regulated process called apoptosis
or programmed cell death. The dying cells
confront the immune
system with large amounts of proteins, which ought to activate an immune
response, but the apoptotic
cells seem to actively suppress the immune s
ystem so that it does not attack the body's own tissues.
Dr Peter Krammer, an immunologist
at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) told Thailand Medical
News, "We began wondering many years ago what kind of protective mechanism prevents autoimmune
reactions ie the body attacking its own tissues when cells in the immune
system, such as dendritic cells, take up the remains of the dead cells
Dr Krammer, his colleague Dr Heiko Weyd, and their team recently found an answer to the question: As soon as apoptosis
is triggered, the dying cells
transport proteins from the annexin
family to the cell surface. The annexins
act like a stop signal for the cells of the immune
system and prevent an immune
response from being triggered.
Dr Kevin Bode from Krammer's department has now identified the dectin-1 protein as the annexin-binding receptor on the surface of dendritic cells: Dectin-1 recognizes the annexins and triggers a signaling pathway in dendritic cells that ultimately suppresses the immune
It was seen that mice that do not have any dectin-1 on the surface of their dendritic cells showed a stronger immune
response to dying, apoptotic cells. Moreover, the mice without dectin-1 developed signs of autoimmune
diseases in old age.
The researchers from DKFZ thus discovered an important control mechanism for the immune
system's 'self-tolerance'. "But we assume that the body has other protective functions to prevent autoimmune
reactions too. That's why the loss of dectin-1 in the animals does not become apparent until later in life," Dr Bode explained.
Dr Peter Krammer a
dded, "Interestingly, dectin-1 has a dual role. Dectin-1 not only binds annexins; it also binds certain pathogens at a different binding site. This has the opposite effect and triggers an immune
response. We thus identified a crucial immune checkpoint which, depending on the binding partner, either triggers or suppresses the immune
A major key link in the dectin-1 signaling pathway is the enzyme NADPH oxidase 2. People who lack this enzyme develop autoimmune
diseases. In cooperation with the Children's Hospital Zurich and Heidelberg University Hospital, the DKFZ researchers are therefore currently examining blood samples from patients lacking NADPH oxidase 2 to find new starting points for potential treatments.
It has been seen that autoimmune
diseases have a hugely detrimental impact on patients' lives and in some cases are even life-threatening. In order to develop effective treatments, it is therefore vital to know which mechanisms suppress the immune
responses to a patient's own body tissues or in contrast activate them. By establishing the interaction between annexin
on the surface of dying cells and dectin-1 on the dendritic cells, Bode and his colleagues identified a key mechanism that prevents autoimmune
reactions in healthy body tissues. In doing so, they have found an interesting starting point for future drug treatments.
Though the interactions between annexin and dectin-1 were initially identified in a Petri dish, the scientists needed an animal with all the diversity of the various components of the immune system to demonstrate that the bond between these two proteins actually suppresses autoimmune reactions.
Reference: Kevin Bode, Fatmire Bujupi, Corinna Link, Tobias Hein, Stephanie Zimmermann, Diluka Peiris, Vincent Jaquet, Bernd Lepenies, Heiko Weyd and Peter H. Krammer: Dectin-1 binding to annexins on apoptotic cells induces peripheral immune tolerance via NADPH oxidase-2. CELL Reports DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.11.086.