Alternative control: what's WASp doing in the nucleus?

Department of Pathology, and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
Science translational medicine (Impact Factor: 15.84). 06/2010; 2(37):37ps31. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001336
Source: PubMed


Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is a rare X-linked recessive immunodeficiency disorder of childhood that is caused by mutations in the WAS gene. WAS encodes WASp, a protein that is known to function in the cytoplasm of hematopoietic cells and is required for the induced differentiation of CD4+ T helper type 1 (TH1) lymphocytes. Now, a paper in Science Translational Medicine describes another mechanism for impaired immunity in WAS by showing that WASp localizes in the nucleus and regulates histone modifications and chromatin structure, thereby modulating expression of the TH1 master gene TBX21 (TBET).

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    ABSTRACT: Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is a severe X-linked immunodeficiency caused by mutations in the gene encoding for WASP, a key regulator of signaling and cytoskeletal reorganization in hematopoietic cells. Mutations in WASP result in a wide spectrum of clinical manifestations ranging from the relatively mild X-linked thrombocytopenia to the classic full-blown WAS phenotype characterized by thrombocytopenia, immunodeficiency, eczema, and high susceptibility to developing tumors and autoimmune manifestations. The life expectancy of patients affected by severe WAS is reduced, unless they are successfully cured by bone marrow transplantation from related identical or matched unrelated donors. Because many patients lack a compatible bone marrow donor, the administration of WAS gene-corrected autologous hematopoietic stem cells could represent an alternative therapeutic approach. In the present review, we focus on recent progress in understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms contributing to the pathophysiology of WAS. Although molecular and cellular studies have extensively analyzed the mechanisms leading to defects in T, B, and dendritic cells, the basis of autoimmunity and thrombocytopenia still remains poorly understood. A full understanding of these mechanisms is still needed to further implement new therapeutic strategies for this peculiar immunodeficiency.
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