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University of Basel

22 December 2021

T cells: No time to die

Electron microscope image of T cells
Coronin 1 promotes long-term survival of the T cells of our immune system. (Electron microscope image of T cells: Nano Imaging Lab SNI/Biozentrum, University of Basel)

They are at the forefront in the fight against viruses, bacteria, and malignant cells: the T cells of our immune system. But the older we get, the fewer of them our body produces. Thus, how long we remain healthy also depends on how long the T cells survive. Researchers at the University of Basel have now uncovered a previously unknown signaling pathway essential for T cell viability.

Like human beings, every cell in our body tries to ward off death as long as it can. This is particular true for a specific type of immune cells, called T-lymphocytes, or T cells for short. These cells keep viruses, bacteria, parasites and cancerous cells at bay. While T cell production is an active process in infants, children and young adults, it comes to a gradual stop upon aging, meaning that in order to maintain adequate immunity up to an old age, your T cells should better live as long as you.

How T cells manage to survive for such a long time, up to several decades in humans, has long remained unclear. In collaboration with scientists at the Department of Biomedicine and sciCORE, the Center for Scientific Computing of the University of Basel, Professor Jean Pieters’ research group at the Biozentrum has now revealed the existence of a hitherto unrecognized pathway promoting long-term survival of T cells. In Science Signaling they report that this signaling pathway, regulated by the protein coronin 1, is responsible for suppressing T cell death.

Coronin 1 enables long-term survival

In earlier research, Pieters’ team and others had shown that coronin 1 is essential for the survival of peripheral T cells while being dispensable for their production and maturation. In their current study, the team has now been able to show that pathways previously thought to be implicated in T cell survival were in fact independent of coronin 1, and they furthermore uncovered a unknown coronin 1-driven signaling pathway that regulates T cell survival.


Original publication

Mayumi Mori, Julie Ruer-Laventie, Wandrille Duchemin, Philippe Demougin, Tohnyui Ndinyanka Fabrice, Matthias P. Wymann, Jean Pieters.
Suppression of caspase 8 activity by a coronin 1-PI3Kδ pathway promotes T cell survival independently of TCR and IL-7 signaling.
Science Signaling (2021), doi: 10.1126/scisignal.abj0057

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