How the fuel of inflammation is running out

Symbolic picture for the article. The link opens the image in a large view.
Image: Sandra Jeleazcov

Scientists show how an oxygen sensor inhibits inflammation in the body

Inflammation needs energy. This is not least generated from oxygen, which is essential for the cells of the immune system. On the one hand, oxygen is an essential element for the survival of cells, but on the other hand it also functions as a “fuel” for the fire of inflammation. Now, researchers at the Department of Internal Medicine 3 – Rheumatology and Immunology at the University Hospital Erlangen (Director: Prof. Dr. Georg Schett) have been able to find out that the body cleverly exploits this process to eradicate inflammations. Immune cells are hypothesized to be oxygen deficient, so that they withdraw from the inflammatory process in order to save energy. These new findings have now been published in the journal Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02683-x).

Oxygen concentrations are closely monitored in the body. For this purpose, the body has oxygen sensors that measure the concentration in the cells. If the oxygen content falls, for example due to a lower supply or increased consumption, these sensors are activated. The most important oxygen sensor in the body is a protein called hypoxia induced factor (HIF) which is activated by a low oxygen content.

Now, Prof. Dr. Aline Bozec in medicine 3 was able to show that increased activation of HIF-1α in immune cells leads to the dissolution of inflammation. The researchers have succeeded in uncovering a new molecular mechanism that controls serious inflammatory diseases of the human body such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

“HIF acts as a kind of psychotherapist for a certain type of immune cells, the B-lymphocytes,”explains Professor Bozec. Under the influence of HIF, B-lymphocytes, which normally play a central role in the excessive immune response, start to produce the regulating messenger interleukin-10 and thus inhibit the inflammatory process. By activating HIF, B-lymphocytes become “from Saul to Paul”.

Professor Bozec and her team have switched off the oxygen sensor HIF in B-cells and observed that inflammations do not disintegrate and chronic inflammatory diseases occur. This opens up new possibilities for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis or multiple sclerosis with drugs that switch HIF on. Professor Bozec’s work is supported by the Collaborative Research Centre 1181 “Checkpoints for Resolution of Inflammation”.

Further Information:

Prof. Dr. Aline Bozec
Telefon: 09131 85 29032

Quelle: uni | mediendienst | forschung  Nr. 6/2018 vom 12. Februar 2018