Molecular regulator for lymphoid cells discovered in mice

4 Jul 2024

UQ researchers have discovered a key molecular regulator for specialised white blood cells (known as innate lymphoid cells), found in the lung.

Professor Gabrielle Belz from UQ’s Frazer Institute said the findings could reshape treatment approaches for inflammation and tumour cells in the future.

“A molecular regulator guides the fate and function of the cells, and this machinery governs the destiny of a cell – determining the tissue for which it becomes specialised,” Professor Belz said.

“This differentiates the lung innate lymphoid cells from other immune cell types.

“This cell and the molecular regulator has not been studied in great detail as it is difficult to visually separate the rare innate lymphoid cells from other cells.

“Fortunately, our colleagues in Canada were able to engineer a system where the targeted cells glowed fluorescent green in the mice we studied.”

Lead author Qiutong (Angela) Huang, an Honorary Fellow at UQ’s Frazer Institute and the University of Calgary, said deleting the transcription factor within the cells had interesting results.

“We found that when we deleted the transcription factor in these innate cells, the mice developed a lot more tumours,” Dr Huang said.

“This proves that the molecular regulator is important for the cells that are responsible for fighting off tumours in these mice.

“We believe it is similar in humans, but it's still very hard to track the cells without a fluorescent protein or markers.

“By extension, our research sheds new light on this particular cell type that might be modulated or targeted for therapies for asthma or lung cancer in the future. 

The discovery was made in the lungs of mice and the research was published in Science Immunology.

Media contact

UQ Faculty of Medicine Communications 
+61 436 368 746