FEB 03, 2018 06:53 AM PST

Immune Cells Exchange Signals Through "Kiss and Run" Encounters

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Scientists are measuring interactions between immune cells that they haven’t been able to quantify before. With this new influx of information, they could learn a lot more about the immune response to infections and autoimmune disease.

A new labeling technique visualizes brief encounters between dendritic cells (red) and T cells (green). When these cells come into contact, they tag each other with a fluorescent stain (white). Credit: Laboratory of Lymphocyte Dynamics

From Rockefeller University, scientists are studying what they’re calling “LIPSTIC” or “kiss-and-run” interactions. With a new system of monitoring immune cell communication among immune cells in live mice, scientists can visualize immune cell interaction in real time, whereas before, scientists could only measure this type of interaction via isolated cells grown in the lab.

"Most immune phenomena require that cells physically meet each other and exchange signals so that the response gets kick started,” explained lead scientist Gabriel Victora. “That is how the system decides whether or not it wants to react to a stimulus like an invasion by a pathogen, and if it is going to act, what exactly it should do."

How does a “kiss-and-run” interaction between immune cells work? Individual immune cells interact briefly with another cell within a “crowd” of other immune cells. Researchers, like Victora, want to track these brief moments of communication. So they developed a system for tagging the parts of the immune cell that make physical contact during the interaction. This manipulation would, in theory, result in immune cells “tagging” one another so researchers could measure the interaction, which they successfully did in the lab.

With the new system, Victora and his team could tell which cells within a population were communicating, watching how the immune system reacts on a cellular level to a pathogenic invasion. "We can also monitor how the number and quality of the interacting cells changes over time,” Victora explained.

Victora and his team took their system one step further, testing its efficacy in live mice. They used T cells and dendritic cells, a classic example of cell-to-cell contact in the immune system. Dendritic cells are antigen presenting cells, which means they identify and bind foreign particles, like proteins from bacteria, and present them to T cells. If a T cell deemed the antigen worthy of mounting an immune response, then it would recruit the cells necessary to do so.

To start, researchers produced dendritic cells primed with an antigen that T cells recognize as foreign. They injected mice with the primed dendritic cells, which made their way to the nearest lymph node, which provides a home to a plethora of T cells. Researchers found that the labeled dendritic cells had “tagged” T cells in the lymph node, successfully indicating their ability to measure immune cell interactions.

The present study was published in the journal Nature.

Source: Rockefeller University

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
APR 28, 2018
Cardiology
APR 28, 2018
Eating Dark Chocolate Reduces Stress, Improves Mood
We’ve heard that dark chocolate is good for us in reasonable amounts, but two unique studies from the Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences...
JUN 05, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
JUN 05, 2018
"ImmunoPET" Imaging Identifies IBD Inflammation
Scientists are now applying PET imaging to detect inflammation in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This could help countless IBD patients conn...
JUN 30, 2018
Immunology
JUN 30, 2018
CD4 T Cells Responsible for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
A specific subset of immune cells could be targeted to better treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A new University of Alabama at Birmingham study point...
JUL 09, 2018
Immunology
JUL 09, 2018
Protein Complex Determines the Fate of T cells
The protein complex mTORC1 has been shown to integrate metabolic and signaling activity to determine the fate of T cell lineage between alpha beta and gamma delta....
AUG 13, 2018
Immunology
AUG 13, 2018
Silent Viruses Impact Microbe and Immune Cell Populations
Subclinical infections may alter the immune system and gut microbiota in the human host impacting how we respond to environmental stimuli like vaccines....
AUG 28, 2018
Drug Discovery
AUG 28, 2018
Combination Therapy for Advanced Melonoma
According to a research study led by UCLA, a bacteria-like agent used in combination with an immunotherapeutic drug may help patients survive longer with a...
Loading Comments...