Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 


Communicative Immune Cells


A signalling molecule known as Axl has been discovered on immune cells of the epidermis. This recently published finding provides new insight into the development of important skin immune cells known as Langerhans cells. These cells fight off invading microorganisms and play a crucial role in our health.

As the research project, funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, also discovered, the natural production of the signalling molecule Axl is highly dependent on the messenger substance TGF-beta1. Together, these findings provide a better understanding of how immune cells develop and offer new approaches for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

Some infections can really "get under your skin". Fortunately, however, this is not always the case, as the skin provides very effective protection against infections - a function for which we have to thank a type of skin cells, known as the Langerhans cells (LCs). These cells are found in the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, and on mucous membranes, and provide a first line of defence against invading viruses, bacteria and fungi. A team of researchers at the Medical University of Vienna is currently examining how immune cells develop from haemopoietic or blood-forming stem cells, and recently made some very important discoveries in the process.


A team headed by Prof. Herbert Strobl from the Institute of Immunology has not only demonstrated that a signalling molecule known as Axl occurs on the surface of LCs, but also how this process is controlled by the messenger substance or cytokine transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-beta1). Commenting on the significance of this study, Prof. Strobl explains that: "A large number of benign microbes are found on the skin, which are important for human health. The ability to distinguish "good" from "bad" is therefore of critical importance for the LCs - and Axl plays an important role in this process."

Axl is, in fact, a receptor belonging to the family of TAM receptor tyrosine kinases. These messenger molecules have a crucial function in the prevention of undesired inflammatory responses - and are thereby also preventing the immune system from reacting to benign microbes. Finding an explanation for when and how Axl is formed is therefore very important for understanding the development of LCs from stem cells.

The group headed by Prof. Strobl, who recently started at the Institute of Pathophysiology and Immunology at the Medical University of Graz, has now succeeded in showing that precursor LCs form the signalling molecule Axl just a few hours after coming into contact with TGF-beta1. In comparison to the duration of other cell differentiation processes, an astonishingly short time period. In addition, the researchers established that Axl is only produced in cells that go on to differentiate into LCs - and not in precursors that develop into other cell types, for example granulocytes, monocytes or lymphocytes. The scientists also succeeded in determining that Axl is the only receptor of the TAM family synthesised under these conditions.

These findings rapidly indicated to Thomas Bauer, first author of the study, that the effect of TGF-beta1 on Axl production is vital for LC differentiation from precursor cells: A detail that is further substantiated by the fact that the continuous presence of TGF-beta1 is essential throughout the differentiation process to guarantee Axl synthesis.


These findings have now been published in the prestigious Journal of Experimental Medicine. This study, which is impressive from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective, was made possible by a well-established test system, as Prof. Strobl explains: "Thanks to an in vitro cell culture procedure for LC differentiation from isolated blood stem cells, we can analyse the effects of different molecules during LC differentiation in detail. This is exactly what we did with TGF-beta1."

The importance of the findings of this FWF project extends far beyond the fundamental insights they provide into the development of skin immune cells. Axl´s ability to distinguish between "good" and "bad" also enables it to prevent autoimmune diseases. Which is why these findings just may contribute to the treatment of these diseases in the future.

Original publication: T. Bauer, A. Zagorska, J. Jurkin, N. Yasmin, R. Koffel, S. Richter, B. Gesslbauer, G. Lemke and H. Strobl, Identification of Axl as a downstream effector of TGF-beta1 during Langerhans cell differentiation and epidermal homeostasis. J. Exp. Med. 2012 Vol. 209 No. 11 2033-2047. DOI 10.1084/jem.20120493

Scientific Contact:
Prof. Herbert Strobl
Medical University of Graz
Institute of Pathophysiology and Immunology Heinrichstraße 31a
8010 Graz, Austria
M +43 / 676 / 757 61 95
Austrian Science Fund FWF:
Mag. Stefan Bernhardt
Haus der Forschung
Sensengasse 1
1090 Vienna, Austria
T +43 / 1 / 505 67 40 - 8111
Copy Editing and Distribution:
PR&D - Public Relations for Research & Education Mariannengasse 8
1090 Vienna, Austria
T +43 / 1 / 505 70 44

Judith Sandberger | PR&D
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New supercomputer simulations enhance understanding of protein motion and function
24.11.2015 | DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

nachricht Sensor sees nerve action as it happens
24.11.2015 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Follow Me: Forscher der Jacobs University steuern Unterwasser-Roboter erstmals durch Zeichensprache

Normalerweise werden Unterwasser-Roboter über lange Kabel von Booten oder von Land aus gesteuert. Forschern der Jacobs University in Bremen ist nun ein Durchbruch in der Mensch-Maschine-Kommunikation gelungen: Erstmals konnten sie einen Unterwasser-Roboter mit Hilfe von Gesten navigieren. Eine spezielle Kamera half dabei, die Zeichensprache in Befehle umzusetzen. Die Feldtests fanden im Rahmen des EU-geförderten Projektes CADDY „Cognitive Autonomous Diving buddy“ statt.

Archäologische Untersuchungen im Ozean und vergleichbare komplexe Forschungsprojekte unter Wasser sind auf die Unterstützung von Robotern angewiesen, um in...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser-Prozesssimulation erstmals auch als App verfügbar

Die Simulation von Prozessen bei der Lasermaterialbearbeitung ist in den letzten Jahren immer besser geworden. Die Software kann heute relativ gut voraussagen, was am Werkstück passiert. Leider ist sie hochkomplex und erfordert viel Rechenzeit. Durch eine clevere Vereinfachung können Experten vom Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT erstmals eine Simulationssoftware anbieten, die Prozesse in Echtzeit rechnet und auch auf Tablets oder Smartphones läuft. Mit der schnellen Software lassen sich teure Versuche einsparen und noch besser optimale Prozessparameter finden.

Eine verlässliche Simulation von Laserprozessen war bislang eine Sache für Experten. Mit ausgefeilten Software-Paketen und viel Zeit auf Computerclustern...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantensimulation: Magnetismus besser verstehen

Heidelberger Physiker imitieren mit ultrakalten Atomen das Verhalten von Elektronen in einem Festkörper

Einen neuen Ansatz zur Erforschung des Phänomens Magnetismus haben Wissenschaftler der Universität Heidelberg entwickelt. Mithilfe von ultrakalten Atomen nahe...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>



im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics

Schlafmedizin-Jahrestagung: Beginnt die Schule zu früh? Steht Deutschland zu früh auf?

24.11.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Verantwortung der Internet-Giganten – Brauchen wir eine Politik und Ethik der Algorithmen?

24.11.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Computerphysik: Experten treffen sich an Universität Leipzig

23.11.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Die besondere Verbindung der Produkteigenschaften von BOROFLOAT<sup>®</sup> ermöglicht dichromatische Filter und Warmlicht- oder Kaltlichtspiegel

24.11.2015 | Materialwissenschaften

Kompakte und robuste Stromversorgungen für den weltweiten Einsatz

24.11.2015 | Messenachrichten

Siemens bietet mit Digital Enterprise konkretes Lösungsportfolio für Industrie 4.0

24.11.2015 | Messenachrichten