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About Sickkids
About SickKids

February 12, 2009

Lunatic and Manic Proteins Sweeten Immune Cells

SickKids researchers have discovered a molecular interaction that controls the development of immune cells in the spleen

Toronto - The spleen is a little talked about organ that has a big job. It helps clear away bacteria and other infections that get into the blood. All the blood is filtered through the spleen, where there are special immune cells called Marginal Zone (MZ) B cells. These MZ B cells help get rid of bacteria. Dr. Cynthia Guidos, SickKids Senior Scientist and Professor in Immunology at the University of Toronto and Dr. Sean Egan, Senior Scientist and Associate Professor in Medical Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Toronto, found an important molecular interaction that controls the development of the MZ B cells. Their findings are published today in the on-line edition of Immunity and will be published in the Feb 20 print issue.

In the spleen there are molecules called Notch2 and Delta-like-1 (DL1) that fit together like a lock and key. Together Notch2 and DL1 prompt the development of MZ B cells., but they seem to have a weak connection.

“These two molecules don’t seem to interact strongly, but now we have shown that sugar molecules act like glue and make them fit together more tightly,” says Dr. Guidos.

These sugar molecules are put in place by enzymes called Lunatic and Manic Fringe.

Understanding how MZ B cells are created is the first step to understanding how they secrete antibodies to fight bacteria. MZ B cells are needed to prevent sepsis (blood infections), and patients who have had their spleen removed are at higher risk of developing sepsis.

The research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canadian Cancer Society, the SickKids Foundation, and SickKids Restracomp Studentships.

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), affiliated with the University of Toronto, is Canada’s most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children’s health in the country. As innovators in child health, SickKids improves the health of children by integrating care, research and teaching. Our mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized care by creating scientific and clinical advancements, sharing our knowledge and expertise and championing the development of an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca. SickKids is committed to healthier children for a better world.

For more information, please contact:

Matet Nebres
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-6380
email: matet.nebres@sickkids.ca