A new protein holds the key to making long-lasting antibody responses in the body, according to a report published online this week in Nature Immunology.
The immune system utilizes different types of immune cells ― such as T cells and B cells ― to ward off attacks from foreign agents. B cells make antibodies against microbes; after an infection, B cells remember or gain long-lasting 'memory' against future attacks by that particular microbe so the body can rapidly respond and clear infection.
Chris Goodnow, Richard Cornall, and their colleagues generated a battery of mutant mice, and then screened the mice for various aberrant immune responses. Two independent types of mutant mouse groups were found that could make early antibody responses towards microbes but failed to generate longer lasting and more specialized antibody responses. The scientists were able to identify a single gene that is responsible for this immune defect seen in both strains of mice.
The gene, Dock8, encodes a protein that helps the antibody-producing B cells form stable complexes with other immune cells. These immune complexes allow information to pass between the interacting cells and provide instructions to the B cells on how to generate more effective antibodies and become memory cells.
These results are corroborated by recent findings that DOCK8 mutations also occur in humans and are associated with immunodeficiency disease.