Nature Immunology paper pinpoints a transcription factor that controls cell arrest.

Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and Texas Children’s Hospital have identified a process that plays a role in naive and memory T cells’ growth and production. They found that transcription factor ELF4 activates an inhibitor that leads to cell arrest, stopping naive T cells from proliferation, according to a study in Nature Immunology.

ELF4 had previously been found to have an effect on T-cell maintainance by this research group. They went out to determine how ELF4 affected the process of inhibiting proliferation of CD8 T cells.

Using mice that lacked ELF4, the investigators found that CD8 T cells grew over time and acquired a memory phenotype without being exposed to any type of infections. At the same time, they determined that expression of the tumor suppressor gene called KLF4 was reduced in these mice.

“We discovered that ELF4 directly activates the tumor suppressor KLF4, which signals cell cycle arrest in naive CD8 T cells,” notes Daniel Lacorazza, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology at BCM. “This inhibitory process is important to T cells because it stops them from proliferating out of control.”

The researchers then immunized mice deficient for ELF4 to test their immune response. These mice had a larger memory T-cell response, indicating that the absence of ELF4 eliminated control over the proliferation of CD8 T cells.

“If we can control ELF4 activation during vaccination, we can enhance long-term immune response, making a vaccine more effective,” according to Dr. Lacorazza. “We could enhance in vitro T-cell activation of T cells extracted from patients to heighten immune response.”

Past T-Cell Research

Mouse Model Developed to Understand T Cells’ Role in Kidney Damage Disease (Apr. 2, 2009)
T Cells in RA Patients Are Prematurely Aged (Mar. 5, 2009)
Follicular Helper T Cells Regulated by the T-Cell Antigen Receptor Binding (Mar. 4, 2009)
New Receptor Sites Key to Helping Exhausted T Cells Fight Cancer (Dec. 1, 2008)
Investigators Reveal How HIV Infects CD4 T Cells (Sep. 4, 2008)

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