Shedding Light on Immunosuppression

Sci. STKE, 21 November 2006
Vol. 2006, Issue 362, p. tw394
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3622006tw394

Shedding Light on Immunosuppression

  1. Elizabeth M. Adler
  1. Science's STKE, AAAS, Washington, DC 20005, USA

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight has been implicated in causing skin cancer and, perhaps not coincidentally, suppresses the immune response. UV-dependent immune suppression depends on the absorption of its electromagnetic energy by an epidermal photoreceptor. Trans-urocanic acid (UCA) isomerizes to cis-UCA in response to UV exposure, and epidermal UCA has long been known to act as a UV photoreceptor that can mediate immune suppression. The mechanism whereby cis-UCA affects the immune response, however, has been unclear. Cis-UCA forms a ringlike structure in solution, and Walterscheid et al.--who serendipitously observed that the serotonin [5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)] receptor antagonist ketanserin blocked UV- and cis-UCA-mediated immune suppression--used competitive binding assays to show that radiolabeled cis-UCA bound to human serotonin receptors. Immunoprecipitation analysis with antibodies directed against cis-UCA or serotonin confirmed the structural similarity of the two compounds, and saturation binding studies indicated that cis-UCA bound to the human 5-HT2A receptor with a Kd of 4.6 nM. Cis-UCA stimulated calcium mobilization in L-NCG-5-HT2A cells but not in untransfected controls [LM(TK) cells], and this calcium mobilization was blocked by ketanserin. UV- or cis-UCA-induced immune suppression in mice was blocked by antibodies directed against serotonin (as well as by antibodies directed against cis-UCA) and by 5-HT2A receptor antagonists. Thus, the authors propose that the ability of cis-UCA to suppress the immune response--and that of UV radiation--is mediated through the 5-HT2A receptor.

J. P. Walterscheid, D. X. Nghiem, N. Kazimi, L. K. Nutt, D. J. McConkey, M. Norval, S. E. Ullrich, Cis-urocanic acid, a sunlight-induced immunosuppressive factor, activates immune suppression via the 5-HT2A receptor. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 103, 17420-17425 (2006). [Abstract] [Full Text]


E. M. Adler, Shedding Light on Immunosuppression. Sci. STKE 2006, tw394 (2006).
Science Signaling. ISSN 1937-9145 (online), 1945-0877 (print). Pre-2008: Science's STKE. ISSN 1525-8882