Our research


The molecular mechanisms of T cell MAINTENANCE and DIFFERENTIATION

The successful immune response relies on precision in the differentiation and maintenance of involved cells. Effector T cells defend the organism against pathogenic microorganisms and eliminate malignant or virally infected host cells. To acquire these functions, naïve T cells upon antigen recognition undergo differentiation, the multi-step process that includes activation, proliferation and acquisition of effector functions. After a pathogen is cleared, only a few antigen-specific T cells will survive and give rise to long-lived memory T cells that are essential for the protection of an organism in the event of a secondary antigen encounter. Our laboratory is interested in understanding the regulatory mechanisms that allow T cells to make these decisions and become effector or memory, and what are the specific requirements for their maintenance.

Current projects:

  • role of non-coding RNAs in T cell survival, proliferation and acquisition of effector function.

  • identification of key signals and factors that control the initial lineage fate determination of naïve T lymphocytes into effector or memory cells.


Understanding the insides of the IMMUNO-SUPPRESSIVE tumor microenvironment

Chronic inflammation and persistent antigen exposure of T cells lead to alterations in the differentiation program that prevent memory cell formation and promote the generation of exhausted T cells with compromised effector function and poor survival. This is a major concern for the treatment of chronic infections and for adoptive immunotherapy against cancer, where the rapid inactivation/disappearance of antigen specific effector T cells leads to poor clinical outcome. Although in cancer many factors are implicated in establishing the so called “immuno-suppressive tumor microenvironment”, the precise molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. Our laboratory works to define and target such mechanisms in order to develop new therapeutics.

Current project:

  • uncovering the molecular pathways that contribute to diversion of functionally competent T cells into the exhausted state.

Contact Us

 Address. 661 North Pleasant Street, R-431A,

Amherst, MA 01003

Tel. 413-545-2393

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