Medical Research Council - Clinical Services Centre

Mobilising Troops
19 May 2012

Mobilising Troops

Armies of white blood cells patrol our bloodstream defending us against a multitude of infections. When one of their ranks – in this case a B cell – encounters an invasive pathogen [viruses or bacteria], it raises the defence with a specialised protein armory. These antibodies are lying on wait around the perimeter of the B cell. Triggered by specific proteins on the surface of invaders, the B cell mobilises other antibody proteins within to join in the attack. Their journey to the surface of the cell is facilitated by a network of motor-like actin proteins. This mouse B cell (perimeter drawn in white) shows how actin strands (stained yellow-green) attach to the cell membrane (at arrowheads), which guides the antibodies to their destination. Then these proteins can get on with the job of neutralising and ousting the invader.

Written by Alice Lighton

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