It has lengthy been recognized that viral infections may be extra extreme in males than females, however the query as to why has remained a thriller – till probably now. The important thing might lie in an epigenetic regulator that reinforces the exercise of specialised anti-viral immune cells often known as pure killer (NK) cells.
In a research revealed March 16 within the peer-reviewed journal Nature Immunology, a collaborative group of UCLA researchers have discovered that feminine mouse and human NK cells have an additional copy of an X chromosome-linked gene known as UTX. UTX acts as an epigenetic regulator to spice up NK cell anti-viral operate, whereas repressing NK cell numbers.
Whereas it’s well-known that males have extra NK cells in comparison with females, we didn’t perceive why the elevated variety of NK cells was no more protecting throughout viral infections. It seems that females have extra UTX of their NK cells than do males, which permits them to battle viral infections extra effectively.”
Dr. Maureen Su, co-senior writer, professor of microbiology immunology and molecular genetics, and of pediatrics, on the David Geffen Faculty of Medication at UCLA
The researchers famous that this held true whether or not or not the mice had gonads (ovaries in females; testes in males), indicating that the noticed trait was not linked to hormones. Moreover, feminine mice with decrease UTX expression had extra NK cells which weren’t as able to controlling viral an infection.
“This implicates UTX as a vital molecular determinant of intercourse variations in NK cells,” stated the research’s lead writer Mandy Cheng, graduate scholar in molecular biology at UCLA.
The findings recommend that therapies involving immune responses want to maneuver past a “one-size-fits-all” strategy and towards a precision medication mannequin, often known as customized medication, that tailors therapies that consider individuals’s particular person variations, comparable to genetics, surroundings and different components that affect well being and illness danger, the researchers write.
“Given the latest pleasure with utilizing NK cells within the clinic, we might want to incorporate intercourse as a organic consider remedy choices and immunotherapy design,” stated co-senior writer Tim O’Sullivan, assistant professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics on the Geffen Faculty.
Cheng, M.I., et al. (2023) The X-linked epigenetic regulator UTX controls NK cell-intrinsic intercourse variations. Nature Immunology. doi.org/10.1038/s41590-023-01463-8.