Basic Science Research

Research Areas
Research Infastructure
Research Description

Research Areas

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Research Infrastructure

The department has strong infrastructure to support its basic research. This includes the following instrumentation:

  • AutoMacs magnetic sorting machine
  • Biacore
  • 4- flow cytometers including high throughput sampling
  • Fluorescent microscopy
  • Gel imaging and quantitation systems
  • Phosphoimager
  • Real time (quantitative) PCR
  • Betaplate Scintillation counters
  • Spectrophotomertes including Nanodrop
  • Ultra and high speed centrifuges

The institution also provides a wide range of high quality core facilities. These include the following facilities: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Research Description

Lymphocyte Development
Research programs in the department of Pathology focus on areas of basic immunology. Several laboratories pursue studies of lymphocyte development, with an emphasis on T cells. The laboratory of Joonsoo Kang investigates the transcription factors and signaling pathways that promote γδ versus αβ T cell lineage decisions in the thymus. Eric Huseby’s laboratory studies αβ T cell repertoire selection, with an emphasis on how T cell receptor affinity and binding kinetics to MHC/peptide determine the fate of developing T cells. Leslie Berg’s laboratory studies T cell receptor signaling pathways and how these signals regulate conventional versus innate T cell development in the thymus.

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Lymphocyte Activation
A second major area of focus in the department of Pathology is lymphocyte activation. Alexander Sigalov studies immuno-receptor structures and subunit organization in an effort to understand how these receptors transduce signals across membranes. Leslie Berg’s laboratory investigates tyrosine kinases involved in either antigen receptor or cytokine receptor signaling pathways, and how these signaling proteins regulate lymphocyte activation and differentiation into effector cells. Francis Chan investigates the role of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor family signaling pathways and the regulation of cell death, activation, and survival. Liisa Selin’s and Raymond Welsh’s laboratories investigate the T cell response to viral infections, and the role of cross-reactive T cells generated in response to one infection which can alter the immune responses to subsequent unrelated pathogens via heterologous immunity. Michael Brehm studies the interplay between virus-specific T cells and allo-reactive T cells in the setting of transplantation tolerance and graft rejection. Joonsoo Kang’s laboratory studies immunological tolerance and the inhibition of T cell activation by regulatory T cells, focusing on the roles of costimulatory-coinhibitory axis consisting of CD28 and CTLA-4.

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Molecular Recognition - Antigen Presentation - Autoimmunity - Dendritic Cell
The department of Pathology also has a number of research programs focusing on molecular recognition events in the immune system. Kenneth Rock’s laboratory investigates the cellular enzymatic pathways that generate peptide antigens for presentation to T cells on major histocompatibility complex (MHC molecules). Lianjun Shen studies the cellular components regulating a specialized antigen presentation pathway called cross-presentation, where antigens taken up from outside a cell are presented on MHC class I molecules. Lawrence Stern’s laboratory studies the MHC class II molecules, and the cellular pathways involving DM and DO that participate in peptide loading and peptide editing for antigen presentation on MHC class II. Eric Huseby’s laboratory investigates the molecular details of TCR recognition of MHC/peptide complexes, and how subtle changes in TCR binding are translated into distinct outcomes for T cell development and activation. Yuri Naumov’s group investigates evolution of T cell memory to influenza across different population groups of healthy and immune-compromised individuals. Using a combination of epidemiological, immunological and molecular biological information, this group explores how T cell memory to influenza is generated, maintained and exhausted on individual and population levels. Liisa Selin’s laboratory investigates the TCR recognition events that produce T cells able to respond to multiple viral pathogens, and how these cross-reactive T cells impact subsequent immune responses.

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Programmed Cell Death
Programmed cell death, a cell suicide mechanism that plays crucial roles in both lymphocyte development and functions, is another area of research focus in our department. Francis Chan’s group studies the molecular mechanisms by which TNF family cytokines induce both apoptotic and non-apoptotic cell death in different lymphocyte populations. As cells undergo programmed cell death, endogenous adjuvants or danger signals such as monosodium urate crystals (MSU) are released from the injured cell, which cause inflammation. Kenneth Rock’s group is interested in understanding how the release of MSU and other endogenous adjuvants regulate immune surveillance and induce acute inflammation. Raymond Welsh’s group is interested in the role lymphocyte cell death plays in shaping the anti-viral T-cell responses and immunological memory.

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Viral Immunology
A major strength in the department is research on viral immunology. Using lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) and other virus infection models, Raymond Welsh’s group focuses on how innate and adaptive immune responses control viral infections and generate immunological memory. Liisa Selin’s group is interested in how infection by different viruses shapes the responding T-cell receptor repertoire to alter the immune responses and associated immuno-pathologies. Eva Szomolanyi-Tsuda investigates the roles that innate and adaptive immune responses play in the control of virus infection and virus-induced tumor development using the murine polyomavirus model. Michael Brehm is interested in the mechanisms regulating anti-viral immune responses and the generation of memory. Francis Chan is interested in how necrotic cell injury during viral infections contributes to the initiation of innate and adaptive immunity and the mechanisms by which viruses interfere with the host cell death machineries.

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Innate Immunity
Innate immune responses play crucial roles in controlling the majority of pathogenic challenges we face in our daily lives. As a natural extension of our interest in viral immunology, the department has several active research programs in the area of innate immunity. Kenneth Rock’s group is interested in studying the mechanisms by which endogenous adjuvants or “danger signals” alert the immune system during infections and in response to cell injury. Francis Chan is interested in the mechanism by which necrotic cell death contributes to innate immune control of viral infections. Raymond Welsh is interested in identifying the signals that control lymphocyte attrition and expansion during the innate phase of immune responses. Eva Szomolanyi-Tsuda examines the role of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in the regulation of immune responses against virus infections. Leslie Berg’s group is interested in the development and functions of innate-like lymphocytes. Joonsoo Kang’s group has a major interest in identifying the genes that are central for γδ T-cell selection and development.

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T-cell Receptor Structure and Function
Several groups within the department are interested in T-cell receptor structure and function analyses. Larry Stern uses a combination of biochemical and biophysical tools to address the molecular interactions between MHC/peptide complexes and T-cell receptors and their role in T-cell activation. Eric Huseby is interested in the molecular signatures within the T-cell receptor that drive T-cell development and tolerance.

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Mucosal Immunity
Finally, an emerging area of research interest is mucosal immunity. Joonsoo Kang has an active program examining the roles of innate and adaptive lymphocyte populations in the control of infections and inflammation in the gut. Dr. Selin is studying the immune response to viral infections in the lung.

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