Immune cells recruited to sites of infection can use more than one type of molecule to exit the bloodstream, according to a paper published in the April 2007 issue of Nature Immunology. The discovery may have implications for researchers seeking to treat inflammatory diseases by blocking lymphocyte entry into damaged tissues.
Traveling at the speed of blood flow, immune cells called lymphocytes are whisked rapidly through blood vessels. After infection or injury, they travel to the site of damage, and thus need to exit the blood vessel highway. Lymphocytes use a protein called L-selectin to recognize and grasp onto specific types of complex sugars called O-glycans displayed on inflamed blood vessel walls.
Minoru Fukuda and colleagues showed that, in mice, lymphocytes also recognize exit signs on sugars called N-glycans. Whether human lymphocytes behave similarly remains to be seen. If they do, researchers seeking to treat inflammatory diseases need to target more than one lymphocyte exit strategy.
Minoru Fukuda (Burnham Institute for Medical Research, La Jolla, CA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
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