A new study identifies genes involved in white blood cell biology

An MRC funded project led by researchers in Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease has culminated in a publication in the journal, Blood, which identifies genes that regulate leukocyte production and function. Neutrophils, our most abundant leukocyte, are critical in fighting infection and responding to inflammation. Defects in neutrophil production and function can lead to devastating and life threatening diseases.

This research has exploited multiple models of neutrophil function, including using cells from human blood, murine stem cell lines and zebrafish larvae, to show that members of the NR4A family of nuclear receptors are important in neutrophil biology. NR4A nuclear receptors work by controlling the expression of other genes and this is likely to be key to their role in regulating cell responses.

Our study used human and murine neutrophils (upper panel) and genetically modified zebrafish green fluorescent protein reporter lines (lower panels) in order to identify a role for NR4A orphan nuclear receptors in leukocyte biology.

This collaborative study, which has benefitted from the expertise of scientists in Edinburgh, Liverpool and Cardiff, may ultimately lead to new approaches in treating patients with defects in neutrophil function.

The study has been published online in the journal “Blood”

DOI: 10.1182/blood-2017-03-770164