University of Dundee

Cantrell and Taylor Group Nature paper provides insight for the development treatments for autoimmune diseases

29 Apr 2013

Researchers at the College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee have made new discoveries about the regulation of a subpopulation of white blood cells - Cytotoxic T cells - which play a vital role in fighting viral and bacterial infections.

A collaboration between two research groups in the Division of Cell Signalling and Immunology offers novel insights into the control mechanisms that allow these cells to execute their role, providing important information towards developing new treatments for autoimmune diseases and treatments to prevent organ rejection following transplantation.

The paper which is published in Nature Immunology (April 2013) is the result of a collaboration between the research groups of Professor Doreen Cantrell and Dr. Peter Taylor and describes how it is essential that T cells manage amino acid transport when they respond to pathogens.

The research documents how T cell respond to pathogens by increasing expression of amino acid transporters on their cell membrane. This is a mechanism thatrestricts the uptake of amino acids to T cells taking part in an immune response. This ensures that T cell match nutrient uptake to metabolic demands. The paper identifies that the failure of T cells to express a single amino acid transporter called slc7a5 results in an inability of T cell to mount an immune response. This is the first time that it has been recognised that the control of amino-acid uptake by pathogens is a critical switch for the metabolic reprogramming that allows immunologically activated T cells to mediate adaptive immune responses.

This research is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

‘Control of amino-acid transport by antigen receptors coordinates the metabolic reprogramming essential for T cell differentiation” Linda V Sinclair, Julia Rolf, Elizabeth Emslie, Yun-Bo Shi, Peter M Taylor & Doreen A Cantrell

Nature Immunology14, 500–508 (2013) doi:10.1038/ni.2556