Professor, Microbiology & Immunology
The research program in my laboratory focuses on investigating and understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms that govern the immune function. My laboratory has identified a novel development pathway that generates a CD4 T cell population bearing a unique innate effector function. These cells are called innate CD4 (iCD4) T cells. iCD4 T cells are similar to natural killer T cells that is another type of innate T cells. Innate T cells produce both Th1 and Th2 cytokines immediately after stimulation and exhibit a regulatory function. Development and function of innate T cells require adequate signaling delivered by pathways including mTOR, SLAM and Wnt. The different signaling requirements appear to contribute to distinct cell metabolism in innate T cells.
Innate T cells have high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and thus susceptible to oxidative stress and undergo apoptosis. Modulation of ROS levels controls the cytokine expression suggesting a key role of ROS for the effector function. In contrast, innate T cells are resistant to ER stress. Innate T cells also exhibit a different glycolysis potential. Currently, we are working to discover how cell metabolism is regulated in innate T cells; how the difference in cell metabolism influences inflammatory responses; how mTOR and Wnt signaling pathways regulate the metabolic machinery and the effector function.
We are also studying human innate T cells to understand an inflammatory role caused by metabolic changes during immunopathogenesis.