About My Health Careers Internship MedBlogs Contact us
Medindia LOGIN REGISTER
Advertisement

Heritable Changes in Gene Function may Weaken Immune System

by Julia Samuel on November 20, 2017 at 1:29 PM
Font : A-A+

Heritable Changes in Gene Function may Weaken Immune System

Inappropriate use of control switches in the genome may weaken our body's defenses against illness and could contribute to leukemia, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Immunology.

The research, led by Dr Anne Corcoran from the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, examines how the immune system makes antibodies, proteins that help to fight infections.

Advertisement


The immune system can fight almost any infection by creating customised antibodies. Each antibody is made by combining a few genes from a large selection of possible components in a process called V(D)J recombination. Like building blocks, each combination of genes creates a unique antibody.

Some of these genetic building blocks are much more likely to be used by the immune system than others, and it is not clear why. This new study uses mice to identify for the first time a set of epigenetic marks and proteins, which behave like genetic switches and that together control which genes contribute to making antibodies.
Advertisement

The best antibodies are very precise in locking on to the causes of a particular illness. By combining genes in many different ways to make different antibodies, the immune system creates antibodies with the precision needed to identify and fight any possible infection.

Some people have genetic conditions that mean their immune system can not produce a large enough variety of antibodies, so they are less able to fight diseases. The immune system also weakens as we age. In both cases, changes to this newly discovered control mechanism could be partly responsible for these weaknesses.

The first author on the paper and postdoctoral researcher at the Babraham Institute, Dr Louise Matheson, said: "Our bodies are able to produce millions of different antibodies from just a few genes using V(D)J recombination, so it's an incredibly complex system. We wanted to understand how this process is controlled as well as which epigenetic marks and proteins are involved. By understanding these systems we can learn how to better control the immune system and how to help it fight infections."

Antibodies are made using several clusters of genes, called loci. This study focuses on just one locus in mice, known as immunoglobulin kappa. In mice and humans, the kappa locus contains around 140 genes for making parts of an antibody. By using a new method called VDJ-seq, a type of DNA sequencing, the researchers showed that the most commonly used antibody genes are labeled with specific histone methylations, a type of epigenetic mark. The team also found a link between the most active genes and two proteins called PU.1 and IKAROS.

The scientist that led the research, Dr Anne Corcoran, Group Leader at the Babraham Institute, said: "We have discovered some of the key factors that switch on the genes that make antibodies. This is a valuable insight into how the immune system protects our bodies, and what may be at fault when the immune system is weakened. This will ultimately help us to design diagnostic tests for people affected by recurrent infections and to devise therapies to boost the body's response to infection."

The team suggests that loss of the epigenetic marks and proteins highlighted by their study could contribute to the weakening of the immune system in old age and in some genetic conditions. If their future research can prove this, then it could lead to new treatments to strengthen the immune system and help more of us to stay healthy for longer into old age.

Source: Eurekalert
Advertisement

Advertisement
News A-Z
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Advertisement
News Category
What's New on Medindia
Cochlear Implants may Consequently Drive Hearing Loss
E-cigarettes Use Linked to Erectile Dysfunction
Memory Loss - Can it be Recovered?
View all

Medindia Newsletters Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!
Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

More News on:
DNA Finger Printing Immunisation Myasthenia Gravis Weaver Syndrome 

Recommended Reading
Blood Cancer Treatment Outcome Depends on Genetic Make Up of Proteins
The genetic make-up can impact the activity of the immune system and the body's ability to fight ......
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the cancer of white blood cells characterized by excess ......
Arthritis Drug can Treat Rare Type of Blood Cancer
Polycythemia Vera is a rare type of blood disorder which has high blood cell count. Arthritis drug, ...
DNA Finger Printing
DNA fingerprinting is a technique which helps forensic scientists and legal experts solve crimes, id...
Myasthenia Gravis
Myasthenia gravis is the commonest disorder of neuromuscular transmission. Autoimmune myasthenia gra...
Weaver Syndrome
Weaver syndrome is a genetic disorder in which children show accelerated bone growth, advanced bone ...

Disclaimer - All information and content on this site are for information and educational purposes only. The information should not be used for either diagnosis or treatment or both for any health related problem or disease. Always seek the advice of a qualified physician for medical diagnosis and treatment. Full Disclaimer

© All Rights Reserved 1997 - 2021

This site uses cookies to deliver our services. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use