Like a mentor helping medical students choose between specialties, a protein complex helps shape the destiny of developing T cells, according to St. Jude scientists.
The scientists learned how a protein complex called mTORC1 influences whether cells become conventional or unconventional T cells. Disrupting mTORC1 led to changes that favored development of unconventional T cells.
The research comes amid excitement about harnessing the immune system to fight cancer, tame autoimmune diseases and combat infectious diseases.
“We know that conventional and unconventional T cells are fundamentally different,” said Hongbo Chi, PhD, of St. Jude Immunology. “They express different cell surface receptors. The cells have different functions. But until now the mechanism that helps decide their fates has remained largely unknown.”
The research appeared in the journal Science Immunology.