Antigen presentation and recognition by immune cells
Sensation and actuation are fundamental to physiologic systems, which evolved to sense perturbations in homeostasis and actuate an appropriate response so as to restore a set homeostatic state unique to an organism. The immune system functions much like a sensor-actuator system akin to the nervous system. The immune system most times works rather quietly, unless o' course winter turns to spring???for those allergic begin coughing and sneezing and huffing and wheezing! So also, we have all felt the power of the immune system when recovering from an infectious disease or expulsing an intestinal worm or, alternatively, its wrath in those suffering autoimmune diseases. In all of these instances, the initiation of an immune response begins with sensing of an antigenic substance--this sensing is called immunologic recognition.
The focus of our research programme is on immunologic recognition that regulates T lymphocyte function in health and disease. This entails an in-depth understanding of (a) what T cells recognize during development and during an immune response; (b) how T cell antigens are processed and transported to cellular sites of assembly for presentation by MHC and MHC-like molecules; and (c) how antigen presentation leads to the induction of the proper immune response?
Our laboratory addresses these questions through three major projects: (a) large-scale pathogen-derived CD8 T cell epitope discovery and mechanisms of action of new generation, microbe-free mucosal vaccines; (b) mechanisms of peptide and lipid antigen processing and presentation; and (c) the molecular basis of NKT cell ontogeny and function. We take a systematic, multidisciplinary approach--immunologic, cell and molecular biologic, biochemical, proteomics and genomics--to address questions in these areas.