Joseph Regenstein Professor
Lab Phone:(773) 834-0660
B.Sc. in Animal Physiology and Neuroscience, University of California at San Diego, 1993
Ph.D. in Evolutionary Genetics, University of California at Berkeley, 2001
Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University
The vertebrate immune system has evolved to recognize foreign pathogens or disease in multitudinous ways. This function is mediated predominately by receptors expressed on the immune cell surface that survey their environment for the presence of non-self or altered self. Certain innate immune cells act as the first line of defense, immediately detecting infection or disease and initiating the downstream cascade of an adaptive immune response. Our interests focus on identifying the molecular recognition mechanisms of these cells, and furthermore characterizing the signals to which they are responding. We focus predominantly on nonconventional T cells, such as gamma delta T cells and those that respond to nonclassical or MHC-like proteins. These T cells typically reside in tissue compartments that are initial sites of infection such as the digestive and reproductive tracts, as well as the epidermis. These cells proliferate during infection, however it is unclear to what stimulus they are responding and what their function is in mediating the response to infection. Our goal is to identify these signals and characterize them biochemically and structurally through recombinant protein expression, biophysical analysis such as surface plasmon resonance (SPR) and finally structurally to understand the molecular contacts that allow the specific recognition of their signals. We also complement our molecular approaches with functional assays to expand our understanding of the functions these cells perform in vivo.