Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Genomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

500 Million Year Reset for the Immune System

Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Bookmark and Share
A single factor can reset the immune system of mice to a state likely similar to what it was 500 million years ago, when the first vertebrates emerged.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics (MPI-IE) in Freiburg re-activated expression of an ancient gene, which is not normally expressed in the mammalian immune system, and found that the animals developed a fish-like thymus. To the researchers surprise, while the mammalian thymus is utilized exclusively for T cell maturation, the reset thymus produced not only T cells, but also served as a maturation site for B cells – a property normally seen only in the thymus of fish. Thus the model could provide an explanation of how the immune system had developed in the course of evolution. The study has been published in Cell Reports.

The adaptive immune response is unique to vertebrates. One of its core organs is the thymus, which exists in all vertebrate species. Epithelial cells in the thymus control the maturation of T-cells, which later fight degenerated or infected body cells. The gene FOXN1 is responsible for the development of such T-cells in the mammalian thymus. Scientists led by Thomas Boehm, director at the MPI-IE and head of the department for developmental immunology, activated the evolutionary ancestor of FOXN1, called FOXN4, in the thymic epithelial cells of mice. FOXN4 is present in all vertebrates, but appears to play only a role in the maturation of immune cells of jawed fish, such as cat sharks and zebra fish. 

“The simultanuous expression of FOXN4 and FOXN1 in the mouse led to a thymus that showed properties as in fish,” said first author Jeremy Swann. Together with earlier results this suggests that the development and function of thymic tissue was originally intitiated by FOXN4. Due to an evolutionary gene duplication, which led to FOXN1, transiently both genes, and finally only FOXN1 were active in the thymus. 

To the researchers surprise not only T-cells developed in the thymus of the mice, but also B-cells. Mature B-cells are responsible for antibody production. In mammals, they normally do not mature in the thymus, but in other organs, such as the bone marrow.

“Our studies suggest a plausible scenario for the transition of a bipotent lymphopoietic tissue to a lymphoid organ supporting primarily T cell development,” said Boehm. Since B- and T-cell progenitors can not yet be distinguished, it remains unclear whether the B-cell development is based on the migration of dedicated B-cell precursors to the thymus, or to maturation from a shared T/B progenitor in the thymus itself. Comparative studies often suggest that the origin of a particular evolutionary innovation must have occurred in an extinct species. „Here, the re-creation and functional analysis of presumed ancestral stages could provide essential insights into the course of such developments," explained Boehm the study approach.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,200+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,600+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
Benchtop Automation Trends
Gain a better understanding of current interest in and future deployment of benchtop automated systems.
Higher Frequency of Huntington's Disease Mutations Discovered
University of Aberdeen study shows that the gene change that causes Huntington's disease is much more common than previously thought.
Revealing the Genetic Causes of Bowel Cancer
A landmark study has given the most detailed picture yet of the genetics of bowel cancer — the UK's fourth most common cancer.
The Epigenetic Influences of Chronic Pain
Researchers at Drexel University College of Medicine are aiming to identify new molecular mechanisms involved in pain.
Fighting Resistant Blood Cancer Cells
Biologists present new findings on chronic myeloid leukemia and possible therapeutic approaches.
Tumor Cells Develop Predictable Characteristics
Scientists have discovered that cancer cells at the edge of a tumor that are close to the surrounding environment are predictably different from the cells within the interior of the tumor.
Mothers Obesity Could be Passed on in mtDNA
Obesity can predispose offspring in multiple generations to metabolic problems.
New Imaging Method Reveals Nanoscale Details about DNA
Enhancement to super-resolution microscopy shows orientation of individual molecules, providing a new window into DNA’s structure and dynamics.
Genetic Research Can Significantly Improve Drug Development
With drug development costs topping $1.2bn (£850 million) to get a single treatment to the point it can be sold and used in the clinic, could genetic analysis save hundreds of millions of dollars?
Naked Mole Rat Exhibits “Extraordinary” Cancer Resistance
Scientists are getting closer to understanding the anti-cancer mechanism of the naked mole rat by making induced pluripotent stem cells.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,200+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,600+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!