Comparative studies to understand the role of class II molecules expressed in epithelial cells


  • Prof James Kaufman

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) encodes molecules that play crucial roles in the immune responses of vertebrates, including classical MHC class I and class II molecules presenting peptides from the inside of cells to T lymphocytes. Chickens have a much simpler MHC compared to mammals, which has allowed the discovery of phenomena that are difficult to discern in the more complex mammalian MHC, most recently the expression of particular MHC class II molecules primarily in epithelial cells of the chicken intestine. Such specific expression of class II molecules is unprecedented and particularly interesting as the intestine is filled with both beneficial commensal organisms and potential pathogens, and decisions about whether to mount an immune response are complex. Perhaps as a result, the intestine is a site of many infectious, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Professor Kaufman wishes to understand the mechanisms and functions associated with these novel class II molecules, first in chickens, and then in mammals.