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Drug Design Reviews - Online (Discontinued)


ISSN (Print): 1567-2697
ISSN (Online): 1567-2697

Presentation of Neuroendocrine Self in the Thymus: Toward a Novel Type of Vaccine / Immunotherapy

Author(s): Vincent Geenen, Fabienne Brilot, Isabelle Hansenne, Celine Louis and Henri Martens

Volume 1, Issue 1, 2004

Page: [37 - 42] Pages: 6

DOI: 10.2174/1567269043480780


Slightly after the emergence some 400 millions years ago of the first signs of adaptive immune response, tolerogenic pathways developed in order to preserve the integrity of self from potential autoimmune toxicity. Amongst those tolerogenic pathways, the thymus occupies a central place both by deleting self-reactive T cells that are produced in the thymus during random recombination of gene segments encoding the variable parts of the T-cell receptor for antigen (TCR) (negative selection), and by generating self-antigen specific regulatory T cells (Tr). A repertoire of neuroendocrine-related genes are transcribed by thymic stromal cells - epithelial and ‘nurse’ cells (TEC / TNC), dendritic cells (DC) and macrophages (Mφ) - in such a way that a dominant protein precursor is expressed in the thymus environment. Oxytocin (OT) and neurokinin A (NKA) are the dominant thymic precursors for the neurohypophysial hormone and tachykinin families, respectively. With regard to the insulin gene family, all members are transcribed following a precise cell topography and hierarchy in the profile of gene expression: IGF2 (TEC / TNC) > IGF1 (Mφ) > > INS (medullary TEC and / or DC). This hierarchy implies that IGF-2 is more tolerated than IGF-1, and much more than Insulin (Ins). The low level of INS transcription in the thymus also explains why Ins displays immunogenic properties, as well as the significant prevalence (± 40%) of anti-Ins autoantibodies in the general population. Ins administration failed in providing tolerance or protection toward islet ß cells in type 1 diabetes (T1D). In contrast, the presentation of IGF-2 B11-25, the homologous sequence of Ins B9-23, to peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) isolated from DQ8+ T1D adolescents significantly increases IL-10 secretion and IL10 expression. Given the potent regulatory / suppressive properties of IL-10 on the autoimmune response toward islet ß cells, these data support that IGF-2 derived sequences constitute a strong basis for the development of an antigen-specific driven tolerogenic approach for T1D prevention and / or cure.

Keywords: thymus, Self-antigen, type 1 diabetes, like growth factor 2

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