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World Allergy Organization
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WAO Medical Book Review

Title: Mechanisms of Epithelial Defense
Editors: Dieter Kabelitz and Jens-Michael Schröder
Publisher: S. Karger AG, Basel, Switzerland
ISSN: 1660-2242
ISBN: 3-8055-7862-8

This collection of up-to-date reviews on immune system defense is volume 86 in the Chemical Immunology and Allergy series that was begun in 1939 as Progress in Allergy. For many years the only English language review of international advances in immunology, this well-established series provides thorough reviews of individual topics useful for both researchers and clinicians.

Epithelial cells constitute an ancient and highly-conserved defense system evolved by multicellular organisms to combat microbial attack. As a primary element of innate immunity, the epithelium presents not only a physical barrier against penetration by bacteria and viruses but marshals an impressive array of chemical and biological weapons. The editors of this volume have brought together a collection of reviews focusing on three important areas in epithelial defense: The production of antimicrobial peptides, the mechanism of toll-like receptor signaling and the role of γδ T cells in immunosurveillance and the link between innate and adaptive immunity.

Peptides such as the defensins afford a rapid and robust response to microbial invasion and are discussed here along with a number of other antimicrobial peptides in organisms as diverse as fruit flies and humans. Dermatologists will be interested in reading the article on antimicrobial peptides in human skin and their relation to the pathophysiology of skin diseases. Clinical aspects of defensin function are elucidated in Crohn's disease and inflammatory bowel syndrome. Pulmonary disease specialists will find a comprehensive discussion of the function of antimicrobial peptides in the lung and how their activity affects inflammation, angiogenesis and cell function.

The co-evolution of humans and microbes has been a constant battle of modification and adaptation, excellently described in the review of bacterial evasion of innate epithelial defenses. This catalog of bacterial strategies sets the stage for the next set of articles that describe the role of the toll-like receptors in the immune response. These molecular antennas detect bacterial cell wall components, DNA, RNA and other microbial products and generate signals that turn on immune system genes. The toll-like receptors are a critical part of the innate immune system, but recent work on dendritic cells, which is described in this section, demonstrates their importance as a link with T cells and adaptive immunity.

In the final set of reviews, the link between innate and adaptive immunity is further investigated through a discussion of the immunoregulatory role of the γδ T cells. Advances in current technology have allowed researchers to study specific subsets of immune cells on a molecular level, and the results, which are well-described in these two reviews, have produced a highly detailed picture of how γδ T cells fine-tune their responses against infection and malignancy. Although a relatively small population compared to the αβ T cells, the γδ T cells play a very important part in immunosurveillance and resistance to tumors and bacterial infection. As the authors point out, there is growing evidence that these cells also have powerful immunomodulatory properties in maintaining epithelial integrity and providing a signaling pathway between the innate and adaptive immune responses.

In conclusion, one has only to read the impressive titles of the reviews included in this volume to recognize the importance and relevance of this collection. Researchers in all areas of immunology as well as clinicians and students will profit from the up-to-date studies presented here.

Purchase Information:
List price: $81.00 USD
Purchase from: S. Karger, AG

Reviewer: Gary R. Hellermann
University of South Florida College of Medicine
Tampa, Florida