Fundamental Mechanisms of Immunity

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Research in the department examines the fundamentals of the immune system at multiple levels: development, activation, regulation, and evolution. Studies of lymphocyte and innate immune cell development examine the receptors and signals that control lineage commitment, cell maturation, and cell death; the establishment of the proper environments for cellular development; and the mechanisms by which antibody and T cell receptor genes are assembled and diversified. A critical first step in an effective immune response is the activation of cells of the innate immune system, including monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, and neutrophils. Research examines the receptors and signaling molecules that control these processes, the mechanism by which cells process and present antigen, and the recognition of this antigen by T cell receptors on T lymphocytes. Upon activation, T and B cells differentiate and acquire critical effector functions including the production of cytotoxic anti-pathogen molecules and antibodies. Studies in the department examine the tissue spatial context and cellular interactions that influence effector lineage fate decisions, cytoplasmic signal transduction molecules, nuclear transcription factors, and mechanisms controlling gene expression during differentiation. Finally, resolution of the immune response (leading to scarring or healing) and the evolution of adaptive immunity are under study.