Proteins that protect against joint inflammation identified

January 20, 2020

Endogenous proteins that play a vital part in allergies and parasitic infection can prevent the immune system from wrongly attacking the body and causing inflamed joints, a study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the scientific journal PNAS reports. The researchers hope that the results will give rise to new drugs for rheumatoid arthritis.

In protecting us against infections, our immune systems are vital to our survival. Unfortunately, immune cells can sometimes wrongly attack the body, resulting in what are called autoimmune diseases. These diseases are often serious and affect some five per cent of the population. One example is rheumatoid arthritis, in which the patient's immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation and pain. If scientists are to develop better treatments for such patients, they need to understand in detail how immune cells are regulated.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have now discovered that certain proteins called IL-4 and IL-13 can play an important part in preventing autoimmune attacks. The proteins, which are secreted by immune cells in the presence of allergens or parasitic infections, influence the behaviour of a specific type of immune cell called a neutrophil. Neutrophils are commonly the most abundant immune cells found in the actively inflamed joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. They are particularly virulent against tissue since they can secrete various fairly non-specific tissue irritants.

Previous research has shown that IL-4 and IL-13 can affect arthritis in experimental models, but exactly how they do so has remained a mystery. The results of this latest study show that these proteins prevent neutrophils from migrating into the inflamed joint. The presence of IL-4 or IL-13 also stimulates an increase in neutrophil surface receptors which have an inhibiting effect on joint inflammation.

"We will continue to study these mechanisms and hope that our work can contribute to the development of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis," says principal investigator Fredrik Wermeling, assistant professor at the Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet (Solna).

For their study, the researchers used the CRISPR method to modify selected immune-cell genes in order to understand how they affect cell behaviour. The use of the bacterial CRISPR system as a research method is one of the most significant scientific advances of the past decade.

"The results we obtained using CRISPR were key to quickly understanding how the system under study is regulated," says Dr Wermeling. "I have high hopes that the experimental use of CRISPR will be hugely important to our understanding of how immune-cell behaviour is regulated, and that this can guide us in the development of new efficacious drugs."
-end-
The study was financed by the Swedish Research Council, Karolinska Institutet, the Swedish Rheumatism Association, the Karolinska Institutet Foundation for Rheumatology Research, the Alex and Eva Wallström Foundation for Scientific Research and Education, the Åke Wiberg Foundation, the King Gustaf V 80-year Foundation, the Professor Nanna Svartz Fund Foundation, the Jeansson Foundations, the Wenner-Gren Foundations, the KI-CSC programme, the KI-NTU programme and the EU/IMI projects RTCure and ULTRA-DD.

Publication: "IL-4 controls activated neutrophil FcγR2b expression and migration into inflamed joints". Sudeepta Kumar Panda, Gustaf Wigerblad, Long Jiang, Yanek Jiménez-Andrade, Vaishnavi Srinivasan Iyer, Yunbing Shen, Sanjaykumar V. Boddul, André Ortlieb Guerreiro-Cacais, Bruno Raposo, Zsolt Kasza och Fredrik Wermeling. PNAS, online 20 January 2020, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1914186117.

Karolinska Institutet

Related Immune System Articles from Brightsurf:

How the immune system remembers viruses
For a person to acquire immunity to a disease, T cells must develop into memory cells after contact with the pathogen.

How does the immune system develop in the first days of life?
Researchers highlight the anti-inflammatory response taking place after birth and designed to shield the newborn from infection.

Memory training for the immune system
The immune system will memorize the pathogen after an infection and can therefore react promptly after reinfection with the same pathogen.

Immune system may have another job -- combatting depression
An inflammatory autoimmune response within the central nervous system similar to one linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has also been found in the spinal fluid of healthy people, according to a new Yale-led study comparing immune system cells in the spinal fluid of MS patients and healthy subjects.

COVID-19: Immune system derails
Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction - rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition.

Immune cell steroids help tumours suppress the immune system, offering new drug targets
Tumours found to evade the immune system by telling immune cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids.

Immune system -- Knocked off balance
Instead of protecting us, the immune system can sometimes go awry, as in the case of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

Too much salt weakens the immune system
A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.

Parkinson's and the immune system
Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.

How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.

Read More: Immune System News and Immune System Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.