Researchers have discovered a gene involved in deregulation of certain immune cells in the neurological disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Characterised by the onset of chronic, neurodegenerative damage of the central nervous system, this unpredictable, often disabling disease disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body by attacking the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibres.
Right now, its causes are unknown although various self-immune mechanisms are known to be involved.
Researchers are already aware that genetic variants lead to changes in the code of the DNA component and that in order to understand their biological effects, the effects of the expression of the corresponding gene need to be studied, in other words, the changes in the messenger RNA and the proteins.
The new study showed that the gene known as ANKRD55 produces three different transcripts of the messenger RNA, and that the genetic variant associated with MS greatly increases the production of these transcripts.
"We have also discovered and proven that this takes place specifically in the case of a particular category of immune cells, the so-called T CD4+ cells,” said lead author of the research Koen Vandenbroeck from Ikerbasque, the Basque Foundation for Science in Spain.
“This suggests that ANKRD55 exerts a significant biological function on these cells and which now needs to be deciphered,” he said.
The T CD4+ cells are crucially important in generating protective cell immune responses and they are thought to be deregulated in multiple sclerosis.
This study concluded that the ANKRD55 gene may play a fundamental role in this deregulation.
The findings were published in the Journal of Immunology.