cD1d-Restricted NKT-Cells: gate keepers of thymus function

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Andrea White

    University of Birmingham

Project summary

The thymus plays an essential role in adaptive immunity by supporting the production of alpha and beta T-cells. By supporting the development of CD1d-restricted iNKT-cells, it also plays an important role in innate immunity. Although there is strong evidence for interplay between innate and adaptive immune cells in peripheral tissues, whether this exists in the thymus and the effect it may have on thymus function, is poorly understood. My recent research was the first to show that iNKT-cells influence the intrathymic stromal microenvironments that support alpha and beta T-cell development. Preliminary data suggests that the absence of iNKT-cells causes thymus abnormalities that lead to an intrathymic accumulation of newly-produced alpha and beta T-cells.

This work provides an opportunity to dissect innate/adaptive immune links in the thymus that may contribute to its specialised role in T-cell production. We will elucidate the cellular and molecular interactions taking place between iNKT-cells and thymic stroma, investigate how iNKT-cells influence the emigration alpha and beta T-cells from the thymus and determine whether intrathymic iNKT-cell activation represents a novel approach to manipulate thymus emigration.