Immune cells constantly communicate with each other to protect body from invading pathogens, while keeping tolerance to host own tissues. We aim to discover new approaches how to influence cellular communication in order to modulate the immune system: either to potentiate it in the case of infection and cancer or inhibit it in the case of autoimmune disorders.
Immune system has evolved to protect body from invading pathogens and tumor growth. Yet aberrant activation of the immune responses can lead to severe autoimmune diseases. In order to properly regulate activation, propagation and termination of the immune responses, individual cells of the immune system must communicate with each other and provide information about ongoing inflammation. A major means of cellular communication is the production of cytokines. Cytokines are small soluble proteins that are secreted by one cell and detected by specialized receptors present on target cells. Proper sensing of these cytokines enables immune cells to activate adequate immune reaction. For example, cytokine TNF is critical to orchestrate the immune system to fight infection, but in pathological situations is responsible for the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Similarly, cytokine IL-17 can organize the immune system to protect from yeast infections, but is also highly involved in the progression of psoriasis.
Our research aims to uncover molecular mechanisms how crucial pro-inflammatory cytokines signal and identify new therapeutic targets to shape immune responses. We employ mass-spectrometry to analyze the composition of selected cytokine receptors in order to identify new components of these signaling complexes. We use CRISPR/Cas9 approach to prepare cell lines deficient in selected proteins. We study cell signaling responses using biochemical methods, flow cytometry, microscopy and RNA sequencing. Proteins, which are important regulators of immune system are further studied using in vivo mouse models.
The goal of our research is to identify new molecular mechanism how different cytokines enable communication between different immune cells and based on this knowledge, identify new possible approaches to modulate the activity of the immune system.