T Cell Development and Function
The unit’s goal is to understand the fundamental processes of T cell development and function. The team approaches this problem from a cellular perspective by studying how T cells communicate with support cells in the thymic microenvironment as they develop and with target cells during the immune response. To achieve these research goals, the team uses a variety of techniques to maintain, manipulate and probe the three-dimensional space of the thymus. These techniques include multiparametric flow cytometry, two-photon microscopy of live tissue, mouse and human organotypic culture, and genetically engineered mouse models. The unit's current goals are to:
- Examine how the T cell receptor signal threshold between positive and negative selection of thymocytes changes throughout ontogeny. How do these differences in thymic selection in neonates and adults impact T cell effector function in the peripheral lymphoid organs?
- Study how self-antigen, when presented by different medullary thymic epithelial cell (mTEC) subsets, affects negative selection. In particular, we are examining how this impacts thymocyte:mTEC interactions and their development.
- Investigate the role of a novel protein:protein interaction between T cells and tumour cells in suppressing tumour-specific T cell function. We are further characterizing this interaction, mechanism of action, and potential as a therapeutic target to treat cancer.