SEP 05, 2017 2:24 PM PDT

"STING" Leads to T Cell Death

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

There are key differences between the two parts of the immune system - innate and adaptive - and a new study adds one more to the list. Cells of the respective immune responses react drastically different to a signaling pathway called STING. One response results in life, the other results in death.

T-lymphocytes within myocardium. Credit: Westgate Research Team

The STING (stimulator of interferon genes) pathway is employed by the innate immune system to detect viral DNA. Cells of the innate immune system are first-responders, detecting and targeting a pathogenic invasion, mounting a response that’s nonspecific but strong. At a certain point, the adaptive immune system takes over and delivers a more targeted response specific to the type of threat challenging the body.

Innate immune system cells use receptors to identify nucleic acids and activate STING, which then turns on a set of genes that produce cytokines, chemical messengers that promote interaction between cells, and other processes to fight pathogens.

Scientists had a clear understanding of how innate immune cells used STING, but does STING trigger the same or different responses in cells of the adaptive immune system? From Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne (EPFL), researchers found that not only is the response different in the adaptive immune system - it’s toxic.

In response to STING, adaptive immune system cells called T cells undergo apoptotic, or self-destructive, cell death. Researchers have linked this type of damage to T cell diseases like lymphoma. This happens, researchers found, because STING induces the expression of BH3-only proteins, activating apoptosis in cells instead of producing cytokines.

Researchers see this study’s findings as a wake-up call; STING can be activated in different ways to produce different responses in the immune system, and some may be detrimental to human health. They are already pursuing one method of intervention: a small molecule that activates STING to prevent growth of T cell-derived tumors.

About T cell lymphoma

Lymphoma - all types - is the most common type of blood cancer. T cell lymphoma makes up approximately ten percent of non-Hodgkin lymphomas. In T cell lymphoma, cancer can affect multiple organs, including the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, and the blood.

The present study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Sources: Lymphoma Research Foundation, Nature Reviews Immunology, Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 11, 2021
Immunology
Malaria Researchers Make a Surprising Antibody Find
NOV 11, 2021
Malaria Researchers Make a Surprising Antibody Find
Researchers looking into the immunology of malaria infections have made an unexpected find that could ultimately lead to ...
NOV 08, 2021
Health & Medicine
COVID-19 Vaccines Approved for Children 5-11
NOV 08, 2021
COVID-19 Vaccines Approved for Children 5-11
It has been a long time coming. COVID-19 vaccinations from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson were offered to all ...
NOV 21, 2021
Microbiology
Rare Genetic Variant Can Make People Susceptible to Bird Flu H7N9
NOV 21, 2021
Rare Genetic Variant Can Make People Susceptible to Bird Flu H7N9
Zoonosis is a serious health concern, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown. Viruses that infect one species can acquire ge ...
DEC 02, 2021
Microbiology
Antibodies Seem to Keep Gut Fungi in Check, Except in Crohn's Patients
DEC 02, 2021
Antibodies Seem to Keep Gut Fungi in Check, Except in Crohn's Patients
The bacteria that live in the gut microbiome have gotten a lot of attention, and for good reason; gut bacteria have been ...
JAN 03, 2022
Cancer
Heating Up the Immune Response: Turning Cold Tumors Hot
JAN 03, 2022
Heating Up the Immune Response: Turning Cold Tumors Hot
Immune checkpoints are present on the surface of immune cells throughout the body.  Under normal conditions, they r ...
JAN 14, 2022
Health & Medicine
How Good Are At-Home COVID Tests at Detecting the Virus When You're Contagious?
JAN 14, 2022
How Good Are At-Home COVID Tests at Detecting the Virus When You're Contagious?
Some of us may have heard stories of family and friends who all tested negative on at-home rapid antigen tests before a ...
Loading Comments...