07 February 2018

A study led by researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, has identified how T regulatory cells home in on particular locations in the body, leading to new insights into the immune system.

T regulatory cells are a specialised type of immune cell that control the immune system, by dampening down the immune response to prevent the body attacking its own tissues. To understand how T regulatory cells decide where in the body to go, the team carried out tests on mouse and human peripheral non-lymphoid tissues such as skin and colon, using single cell genomics.

Their work reveals the tissue-specific receptors and other adaptations which allow T regulatory cells to gather and stay within particular tissues. The researchers say their findings, published in the journal Immunity, could lead to new ways to treat autoimmune diseases, by targeting therapeutic cells to the necessary location.

Tomás Gomes, joint lead author with Dr Ricardo Miragaia, says: “This is the first time that anyone has described the huge varied spectrum of T regulatory cell populations in peripheral tissues.

“We can see that although these cells share the core identity of T regulatory cells, they are very different across different tissues, with different functions, and even express different receptors to guide them to a specific tissue.

“This is helping us understand the regulation of the immune system to keep it in a healthy balance.”

Dr Sarah Teichmann from the Sanger Institute, corresponding author on the research paper, added: “This is the most comprehensive study ever performed of single cell RNA sequencing of T regulatory cells across tissues.

“Not only does it help us understand the immune system within a tissue, it also reveals which regulators and receptors are expressed in each tissue.

“This could help researchers learn how to manipulate potential therapeutic T cells in the future, to design them for specific locations in the body and target exactly the right tissue needed.”

Source: Miragaia, R.J., Gomes, T., Chomka, A., Jardine, L., Riedel, A., Hegazy, A.N., Whibley, N., Tucci, A., Chen, X., Lindeman, I., Emerton, G., Krausgruber, T., Shields, J., Haniffa, M., Powrie, F., Teichmann, S.A. (2019) “Single Cell transcriptomics of regulatory T cells reveals trajectories of tissue adaptation”, Immunity, available at doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2019.01.001


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