GATA-2 blocks FOXP3, suppressing the production of these T cells, which helps people avoid allergic reactions, according to study in PLoS Biology.

An international team of scientists report finding a mechanism that prevents the immune system from regulating itself properly. They found that the gene GATA-3 locks another gene called FOXP3 blocking the development of regulatory T cells.

Regulatory T cells are believed to be vital for averting allergic reactions in healthy people. They keep the other cells in check, suppressing pro-allergic cells known as Th2 cells and stopping the immune system from needlessly attacking the body.

In people with allergies, however, some types of cells in the immune system, particularly the Th2 cells, wrongly identify an allergen as being dangerous. Whenever the person encounters this allergen again, Th2 cells promote the production of antibodies, causing an allergic reaction.

The researchers analyzed genes related to regulatory T cells and how they interact. They confirmed their findings by using mouse models to show that mice genetically engineered to express the GATA-3 gene in all T cells showed dramatic defects in the production of regulatory T cells.

“This finding will help us to understand how healthy individuals are able to tolerate allergens and what we need to do to reinduce tolerance in the immune systems of patients with allergies,” remarks Carsten Schmidt-Weber, Ph.D., from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London and principal investigator on this study.

The research group included investigators from the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research in Switzerland, Erasmus Medical College, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland, and Imperial College London. The findings are published on 27 December in PLoS Biology.

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