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Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Friday Science Review: September 30, 2011

The Dynamic Immunopeptidome

University of Montreal ♦ Published in Molecular Systems Biology, September 27, 2011

The human body has developed a complex system in which to identify self and non-self. The large majority of nucleated cells in the body display small peptides on the cell surface known as MHC I-associated peptides (MIPs). Although past theories have been conducive to the view that the creation and expression of these peptides remains the same regardless of cellular conditions, researchers now believe that the pattern of MIPs presented on a cell may in fact be dynamic and change according to metabolic conditions. Taking a high-throughput mass spectrometry approach, researchers investigated changes that occurred in the immunopeptidome of a mouse lymphoma cell line. In order to alter metabolism, cells in the treatment group were exposed to rapamycin, a potent inhibitor of the kinase mTOR which is known to regulate cellular homeostasis. Rapamycin induced wide-sweeping changes in the MIP composition on the cell surface. A major finding in this study is that the immunopeptidome displayed on the cell surface actually provides a representation of the various biological events occurring within the cell.

Calcium Channel Key to T Cell Development

University of British Columbia ♦ University of Calgary ♦ Oxford University ♦ Published in Immunity, September 23, 2011

Calcium channels are critical players in physiology, development, and cell metabolism. Researchers have identified a specific calcium channel, CaV1.4, that is essential for channeling calcium ions into the cytoplasm of naive T cells. Intracellular calcium stores control signaling, differentiation, and activation. Researchers also found that CaV1.4 is in part responsible for modulating T cell receptor induced rises in calcium stores. In order to investigate the effects that CaV1.4 has on cell homeostasis researchers used a method known as patch clamp. This technique can record the conductance of single cells. Measurements of thymocytes and peripheral T cells from mice deficient in the CaV1.4 channel indicate that the channel both increases intracellular calcium stores on its own and affects the ability of T cell receptors to elevate intracellular calcium stores. Findings also indicate that CaV1.4 may to a certain degree control survival of developing T cells.

Also see this review published in Trends in Biotechnology, on recent methods used to understand host-virus interactions and identify novel targets for diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

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