MAR 11, 2022 10:57 AM PST

Understanding the 'Security Guards' of Our Tissues - γδ T Cells

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

T cells are on the front lines of the immune system, and many reside in the blood and lymph nodes, surveying for and responding to foreign agents and invaders. But special T cells known as gamma delta T cells (γδ T cells) set up shop in epithelial tissues such as the lining of the gut, or the skin. There, they ensure that disease and damage isn't occurring unchecked. Researchers have now learned more about how these immune 'security guards' can differentiate between healthy and diseased tissues. The findings have been reported in Nature Immunology.

Image credit: skylarvision/Pixabay

In this study, the scientists used a mouse model to analyze how γδ T cells in the skin were interacting with cells that form the mouse skin's structure. While regular T cells were able to recognize bacterial or viral proteins, γδ T cells are on the lookout for a molecule that healthy cells carry, called Skint1. The skin γδ T cells interact with their surroundings continuously, when no clear invader is present.

When the researchers interfered with the binding ability of Skint1, the γδ T cells weren't able to function normally anymore. The critical immune barrier function of the skin was disrupted. This study has highlighted the work T cells do even when there isn't an active infection or other problem, to maintain and protect tissues, challenging the idea that the immune system is mainly at work while identifying and responding to a threat, noted the researchers

If the mouse skin with non-binding Skint1 was exposed to stress in the form of UV radiation or chemicals that cause irritation, the γδ T cells could not help the skin recover from the damage that was caused by these environmental stressors.

This study has indicated that immune cells and healthy tissues have to interact in order to mount an effective response against damage or infection, said the scientists. The γδ T cells have to set a baseline in normal tissue so they can detect problems.

"Like security guards, they stay familiar with their surroundings so that they can most effectively identify when things go wrong," said lead study author Duncan McKenzie, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Francis Crick Institute.

"Although we've specifically looked at interactions in mouse skin, we know that there are molecules similar to Skint1 in different tissues, including the human gut lining, where many γδ T cells are found. Our findings may therefore help to explain how γδ T cells maintain and protect many different parts of the human body."

Additional research will help reveal more about how γδ T cells sense the transition a healthy cell makes to a cancerous one. Various research groups are also studying γδ T cells to develop cancer immunotherapies.

Sources: The Francis Crick Institute, Nature Immunology

 

About the Author
BS
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
MAR 17, 2022
Immunology
How Bacteria Can Keep Intestinal Inflammation in Check
MAR 17, 2022
How Bacteria Can Keep Intestinal Inflammation in Check
We need bile acids to help us digest food and absorb nutrients. New research has shown how bile acids modified by bacter ...
MAR 22, 2022
Health & Medicine
Back to Nature: the Health Benefits of Nature Prescriptions
MAR 22, 2022
Back to Nature: the Health Benefits of Nature Prescriptions
With modern amenities and luxuries, it's easy to be unaware of just how much we may neglect the outdoors and its hea ...
APR 01, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Pill Form of Remdesivir Treats COVID-19 in Mice
APR 01, 2022
Pill Form of Remdesivir Treats COVID-19 in Mice
A pill form of remdesivir, an antiviral drug currently administered intravenously, may be able to treat COVID-19 in mice ...
MAY 10, 2022
Immunology
A Failed Immunotherapy Trial Leads to a Crucial Discovery
MAY 10, 2022
A Failed Immunotherapy Trial Leads to a Crucial Discovery
Immunotherapies, which boost a patient's immune system so it's better at fighting cancer, have been a game-chang ...
MAY 29, 2022
Immunology
How T Cells Get Some Much-Needed Rest
MAY 29, 2022
How T Cells Get Some Much-Needed Rest
Our immune system uses T cells to rapidly identify and respond to different kinds of pathogens, whether they're viruses ...
JUN 20, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Rethinking What We Know About Blood Cell Formation
JUN 20, 2022
Rethinking What We Know About Blood Cell Formation
An image by Sachin H. Patel/Boston Children's Hospital shows embryonic multipotent progenitor cells in a mouse embryo's ...
Loading Comments...