SEP 23, 2020 8:00 AM PDT

Gene That Fuels Antibody Factories Discovered

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandes

Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins that play a central role in the immune system’s arsenal of germ-busting weapons. These molecules are of particular interest to scientists as means of fighting back against global health threats such as COVID-19.

According to the University of British Columbia's Josef Penninger, author of a recently-published study uncovering new insights in antibody production, understanding the complex antibody response is the first step in developing clinical interventions to pathogenic attacks. “Antibodies play a fundamental role in medicine, and the antibody-mediated immune response is the ultimate target in the quest for a vaccine to defeat the current pandemic.”

Penninger and team have discovered a gene, called JAGN1, which is a key part of how the body mounts a robust immune shield against foreign invaders like viruses. Antibodies are produced by white blood cells called B cells. Upon coming across substances that B cells deem as threats — chemicals, viruses, allergens, and parasites, for example) — they develop into plasma cells, antibody factories that churn out large quantities of these proteins to neutralize the offending intruder. The scientists discovered that the JAGN1 gene is critical to this process.

Genetically engineering mice to switch off JAGN1 resulted in a dramatic dip in the number of antibodies they could produce following an immune challenge.

“JAGN1 seems to influence the antibody factories in the cells,” said Penninger. “To our surprise, this change in the sugar structure also leads to a better ability of the antibodies to bind to other immune cells and strengthens the defense reaction.”

Just how important JAGN1 in orchestrating our immunological armor was previously demonstrated by Penninger’s team in studies involving individuals with a rare genetic defect called severe congenital neutropenia, in which their JAGN1 gene is mutated. These patients suffer from life-threatening infections due to the low levels of protective white blood cells in their systems.

 

Sources: Journal of Experimental Medicine, University of British Columbia.


 

About the Author
PhD
Interested in health technology and innovation.
You May Also Like
SEP 04, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Brief Exposure to Cancer Drug Produces Anti-aging Effects in Mice
SEP 04, 2022
Brief Exposure to Cancer Drug Produces Anti-aging Effects in Mice
Brief exposure to rapamycin, a promising anti-aging drug, may have similar effects on health and lifespan as longer trea ...
SEP 13, 2022
Cancer
Emerging Drug Targets in Cancer Immunotherapy
SEP 13, 2022
Emerging Drug Targets in Cancer Immunotherapy
Introduction Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. According to estimates from the American Cancer Socie ...
SEP 23, 2022
Immunology
Successful Immunotherapy Trial Sends Lupus Into Remission
SEP 23, 2022
Successful Immunotherapy Trial Sends Lupus Into Remission
Immunotherapy is generally known as a treatment for cancer. In CAR T cell therapy, a patient's T cells can be isolat ...
SEP 26, 2022
Cancer
Clinical Trial Suggests Oncolytic Virus Effective in Combination with Immune Checkpoint Inhibition
SEP 26, 2022
Clinical Trial Suggests Oncolytic Virus Effective in Combination with Immune Checkpoint Inhibition
One type of cancer immunotherapy, called oncolytic viral therapy, works by infecting cancer cells with a specific virus. ...
OCT 23, 2022
Immunology
The Double-Edged Sword of Iron Deficiency
OCT 23, 2022
The Double-Edged Sword of Iron Deficiency
Iron is a crucial nutrient. Most of the iron in the body is contained in red blood cells, as part of hemoglobin, which i ...
DEC 05, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Characterization and Manufacturing of AAVs for Gene Therapy
DEC 05, 2022
Characterization and Manufacturing of AAVs for Gene Therapy
The backdrop upon which every successful gene therapy is developed is the ability to safely and specifically target cell ...
Loading Comments...