MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Allergies such as Atopic Dermatitis (AD) are rampant in the industrialized nations. Why are we more predisposed to developing hypersensitive reactions to innocuous proteins (allergens) is not well understood. To gain better understanding and to develop better therapies, we need to first delve deeper into how our immune system regulates homeostasis in tissues such as skin. The main cell types that thwart inflammatory reactions are known as regulatory T cells. These cells are generated in thymus and reside in secondary lymphoid tissues but they are also prominent at tissue sites such as in dermal layer of skin. In this study, I focused on understanding how Tregs resident in skin are distinct from the Tregs in secondary lymphoid organs such as lymph nodes (LNs). I uncovered that functioning of Tregs in skin is underpinned by a distinct set of genes. One main gene that I found to be highly expressed in skin Tregs but not in LN Tregs is Rora, which encodes for the transcription factor ROR alpha (RORa).
This observation was intriguing as previous studies had elucidated the requirement of RORa in the development of inflammatory type-2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s) and it has been considered the antagonizing RORa functioning would curb allergic responses. However, I observed that Tregs require RORa to suppress allergic responses. In particular, RORa regulates the expression of a TNF receptor family member DR3, which binds to the cytokine TL1A. TL1A has a role in enhancing suppressive activity of Tregs while also enhancing type-2 cytokine production from ILC2s. Hence, in the absence of DR3 in Tregs, we believe more TL1A is available to ILC2s resulting in unrestrained allergic responses. Continue reading