One important mechanism by which protein production in cells can be directed is through the action of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs). A study, published online this week in Nature Immunology, identifies for the first time how RBPs regulate the normal maturation of one of the immune system's key arms, the T cells.
Martin Turner and colleagues demonstrates that mice lacking particular RBPs show aberrant development of T cells. The absence of these RBPs furthermore results in the appearance of an aggressive type of leukemia. The authors identified the target of these RBPs as Notch1 ― a key protein involved in controlling T cell development. Specific RBPs bind to elements of Notch1 RNA and thereby control expression of the Notch1 protein. These findings could shed light on T cell development and the prevention of malignant transformation.