Columbus , Ohio Cancer immunologists here have discovered how a protein on the surface of antibody-making immune cells boosts the amount of antibody the cells make.
The protein, called CD86, is present on B lymphocytes, or B cells, which make infection-fighting antibodies.
Researchers have long known that B cells use the protein to stimulate other immune cells known as T lymphocytes, or T cells, when the two have contact early in an immune response. But the protein was thought to cause no change in the B-cell itself during that interaction.
The study by Ohio State University scientists is published in a recent issue of The Journal of Immunology.
The research, conducted in mouse cells, provides important details about how B cells make antibodies in response to infections. Antibodies are proteins that attach to viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents to disable them.
The findings could lead to new ways of boosting the immune response against bacteria that cause pneumonia, a leading killer of people with weakened immunity such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, and of controlling autoimmune diseases.
"Our findings describe a previously unknown signaling pathway in B cells that helps regulate antibody production," says principal investigator Virginia M. Sanders, professor in department of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and an OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher.
"The findings show that CD86 actually sends signals into the B cell itself, causing it to make a greater amount of antibody. If this is verified in human cells, they could be clinically important."
B cells begin making antibodies after they detect bits of bacteria, viruses or cancer cells in the body. But first the cells must be activated by contact with T cells in lymph nodes. During that interaction, CD86 proteins on the B cells fit like a key into a protein on the T cells called CD28.