Technion researchers have succeeded in deciphering a critical step in the activation of T cells, which are essential components in the human immune system. Understanding this process can potentially assist in finding future pharmaceutical solutions to autoimmune diseases as Multiple Sclerosis (MS),cancer and various allergies.
T cells help the body to fight off viral and other infections. Their abnormal function may lead to autoimmune diseases such as MS and Rheumatoid Arthritis. In order for these cells to function properly, they need to react in a regulated manner to environmental signals by processes collectively known as "intracellular signal transduction pathways".
These processes translate extracellular signals, via a chain of biochemical events, into intracellular reactions. This is achieved by regulated activation of protein molecules called "enzymes".
Doctoral student Yaron Bogin, under the supervision of Dr. Debbie Yablonski, of the Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in the Medical Sciences at the Technion, discovered how atyrosine kinase enzyme called ITK, which is found in T cells, is activated. “It is activated by binding to another protein named SLP-76, which is an adaptor protein known to bind proteins to one another,” said Bogin. “Following a signa initiated by the T cell receptor, the adaptor protein, SLP-76, undergoes phosphorylation and then binds to some of the ITK molecules found in the cell, which are thus activated.”
The Technion researchers proved that the two proteins must be bound to one another for ITK to remain active.
The discovery was recently published in two articles. In the first research, published in the scientific journal, Journal of Biological Chemistry -the Technion researchers proved that SLP-76 plays more than one role in the activation of T cells. In the second research, published in the scientific journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), they showed how SLP-76 mediates and maintains activation of ITK, an essential stage in activation of the T cells.