Recent research has revealed tantalizing hints of commonalities between the nervous and immune systems. In the May issue of Nature Immunology. scientists show that a protein called neuropilin-1, which is normally associated with the nervous system, also plays a role in firing off the immune response.
Tordjman and colleagues from Hôpital Necker, Paris found that neuropilin-1, a protein involved in nerve development, is also expressed by both T cells and the antigen-presenting cells (APCs) that switch them on. Formation of the immunological synapse, a specialized junction formed between APCs and T cells, caused neuropilin-1 to move to the poles of the T cell. Both APCs and T cells were able to bind soluble neuropilin-1, and T cells formed clusters around cells expressing this protein. This binding was functionally relevant, as immune responses were inhibited if the neuropilin-1 interaction between APCs and T cells were blocked. Thus, although neuropilin-1 plays a large role in the nervous system, it is now found to be critical for proper immune system function via its ability to maintain cell-cell contacts.
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