A Korean research team has discovered a core biological factor capable of killing infected cells more effectively by securely anchoring T lymphocytes to infected cells.
The National Research Foundation announced on May 14 that Professor Jeon Chang-deok and PhD student Na Bo-ra at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology successfully found a method to help T lymphocytes kill virus-infected cells more easily.
When cells are infected with a virus, T lymphocytes are the ones that detect and kill infected cells. T lymphocytes kill infected cells by injecting deadly toxic materials into them through an immunological synapse.
However, T lymphocytes haven't been used properly in studies to strengthen immunity to infection or treat cancer, since researchers have failed to find a way to stabilize the immunological synapses. T lymphocytes move with a globular multi-functionalal protein called actin. The research team was able to discover how to maintain the immunological synapse after discovering the function of the TAGLN2 protein, which is produced only in T lymphocytes and strengthens the structure of the lymphocyte with the combination of actin.
Animal experiments showed that a group of mice from which the TAGLN2-making gene was removed were unable to kill infected cells, even though the T lymphocytes recognized those cells. In contrast, another group with a lot of TAGLN2 protein was able to kill cells more easily, since the T lymphocytes were strongly attached to the infected cells.
The research team is currently working to develop a peptide compound that controls the function of the TAGLN2 protein. They think that this material will help increase the body’s fight against viruses. It will also contribute to cancer treatments without rejecting the transplanted organ by the patient's immune system when toxic T lymphocytes specific for cancer cells are directly made.
Professor Jeon remarked, “This study is significant in that the original material that forms a basis for the immune response was locally discovered.” He added, “I think that it will mark a new milestone in research aimed at conquering cancer or eliminating viruses, including H1N1 and avian influenza.”
The research findings were first published online on April 13 by the Journal of Cell Biology, a scientific journal published by Rockefeller University Press.