JUL 28, 2020 12:06 PM PDT

How B Cells Find Their Way to Lymph Nodes

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

In order to generate immunity against invaders, some immune cells have to get to the lymph nodes. So how do they know how to get there? Researchers have now learned more about how crucial immune agents called B cells are able to navigate a dense network of tissues, vessels, and blood to reach the lymph nodes and help trigger an immune response. The findings, which have been reported in Nature Communications, have indicated that there is a trail of molecules that work to guide B cells through a treacherous path so that they can ultimately find their way to their destination.

 Lymphocyte B cell / Credit: BruceBlaus. Blausen.com staff (2014). "Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014". WikiJournal of Medicine

"Our study suggests that B-cells sniff out a chemical trail which allows them to swim over relatively long distances in a highly complex microenvironment to reach their key destination," said the co-lead author of the study, Professor Mark Leake, from the Physics of Life group in the Department of Physics at the University of York.

The lymph nodes can act as a kind of filtration system, which traps microbial pathogens like viruses before they can reach other, sensitive areas of the body. B cells are critical to the immune system, and as they mature they have to move through the body from the bone marrow and eventually to the lymph nodes. Some B cells that reside in the lymph nodes acquire molecules from the surface of pathogens, and they present these so-called antigens to T cells. The T cells will then be activated if they have a receptor that recognizes the antigen. B cells can also produce antibodies.

This work has shown that extremely small cells are able to travel over relatively vast distances to go where they're needed.

"Relying on a single chemical transmitter to act as a beacon across the whole of the lymph node wouldn't do the trick, since the signal becomes too dilute and swamped by noise," said Leake. "Instead, these multiple signals are like having a trail of breadcrumbs that the cells can follow."

In this study, the researchers tagged molecules with fluorescent markers so they could track the movements of the cells, and used computational models and machine learning to map the fine structure of lymph nodes.

"The only way we could gain this incredible new insight is by forming a large research team with a broad range of expertise crossing between multiple traditional science disciplines," said Leake. "Research into understanding the workings of the immune system at the scale of single molecules may help us to understand why things go wrong in the case of some diseases of the immune system. It may help pave the way to new drugs that help to improve the immune system's ability to combat emerging threats from harmful viruses and bacteria that the human population have not previously encountered."

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of York, Nature Communications

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
NOV 13, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Astrocytes are Star Players in the Brain
NOV 13, 2020
Astrocytes are Star Players in the Brain
As neurons fire, they enable us to think and move. They signal to one another where they meet at synapses, and at chemic ...
DEC 01, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Protein Biology Takes a Giant Leap Into the Future
DEC 01, 2020
Protein Biology Takes a Giant Leap Into the Future
The genome has instructions for creating and maintaining an organism, but most biological functions involve their transl ...
DEC 14, 2020
Microbiology
Hydrogen Peroxide Shields The Gut Lining From Bacteria
DEC 14, 2020
Hydrogen Peroxide Shields The Gut Lining From Bacteria
Hydrogen peroxide is known as a corrosive chemical and is sometimes used as a disinfectant. But scientists have now foun ...
DEC 16, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Close Connection Between Two Organelles is ID'ed
DEC 16, 2020
A Close Connection Between Two Organelles is ID'ed
The cell has many specialized components that perform specific functions, like an organelle called the endoplasmic retic ...
DEC 25, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
An Improved Reference Genome for Better Research
DEC 25, 2020
An Improved Reference Genome for Better Research
In scientific research, it's crucial to make comparisons. Therefore, reliable standards and controls are essential for d ...
JAN 02, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Putting Cells in Deep Freeze to Reveal Fine Structures in Action
JAN 02, 2021
Putting Cells in Deep Freeze to Reveal Fine Structures in Action
Many types of cells have to be able to move around, such as during the development of the body, or when immune cells hav ...
Loading Comments...