Microbiology & Immunology
Area of interest
T cells play unique roles in tumorigenesis. On one hand, T cells can develop into cancers, such as lymphoma and leukemia. On the other hand, they are an important component for immune tumor surveillance, without which tumor/cancerous cells are less likely to be identified and eliminated. However, not all the T cells are able to react to and reject tumor cells. Treg, also known as suppressor T cells, is a subset of CD4 T cells that are able to actively suppress immune responses and to prevent tumor rejection by other immune cells. Therefore, to maintain a healthy and tumor-free body, the development, proliferation, survival and function of different subsets of T cells have to be tightly regulated. A better understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms of these biological processes would improve our ability to prevent/treat cancers.
We have found that TAK1, a newly identified MAP3K, is essential for the development, survival and proliferation for conventional as well as immune-suppressive T cells through NFB and/or MAPK pathways. Thus, TAK1 is critical in shaping, maintaining and executing T cell immune responses, through which the immunity can be either strengthened or weakened. One project of our lab is to further investigate TAK1 function in T cells and to test the feasibility of treating T cell malignancies by targeting TAK1 gene. In addition, we are using various genetically modified mouse models to study TGF-beta signaling and Treg functions during immune responses.
These studies will shed light on how T cell physiology is regulated and thus how a normal immune system and a healthy body are maintained. In addition, it will enhance our understanding of the etiology of human T cell lymphoma/leukeman and provide first-hand information on the possibilities of employing new therapies to prevent and treat cancers.