Training > Residency Program > Faculty Alphabetical > Marco Colonna, MD

Professor, Pathology and Immunology
Professor, Medicine
Robert Rock Belliveau, M.D., Professorship in Pathology
Office Suite B - 8212, BJCIH Building
Office: (314) 362-0367
Lab: (314) 362-0368
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Postdoctoral Training Program in Diabetes Research


My laboratory is broadly interested in innate immunity, focused in three main areas:

1) Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) in mucosal immunity
The laboratory has a long-standing interest in ILCs, which are lymphocytes that lack specific antigen receptors. They are found in the mucosae and mucosal-associated lymphoid tissues, where they promptly initiate cytokine responses to pathogens. In 2008 we identified, in humans and mice, a subset of ILCs that produce IL-22 in response to IL-23 [1]. These cells, which are now known as ILC3, are a critical component of mucosal immune responses in health and disease. Recently, we identified a second subset of mucosal ILC that produce IFN-gamma, have a unique location at the intraepithelial interface and are likely to play an important role in gastrointestinal immune responses [2]. Currently, we are profiling the transcriptome of ILCs in collaboration with the ImmGen consortium. We are also investigating the role of Notch and aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) in ILC development as well as developing mouse models lacking ILC subsets to understand their functions in infections and inflammatory bowel disease.

2) Plasmacytoid dendritic cells and IFNalpha/beta in host defense and autoimmunity
Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) are bone marrow-derived leukocytes that detect RNA and DNA from viruses and RNA/DNA/immunocomplexes through two endosomal sensors, TLR7 and TLR9, and secrete large amounts of type I interferons, i.e. IFNalpha/beta. We described pDCs in 1999 as the professional IFNalpha/beta-producing cells in response to influenza virus in human blood [3] and contributed numerous observations to the field of pDC research. Recently, we developed a transgenic mouse model where pDCs can be specifically ablated for long periods of times [4]. By using this tool we have addressed the relevance of pDCs in infections compared to other anti-viral mechanisms [5]. Because autoimmune diseases, such as Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), are associated with excessive pDC activation and secretion of IFNalpha, we are currently exploring the impact of pDCs on models of SLE and testing whether disabling pDCs is a viable therapeutic strategy that can be applied to human autoimmune diseases.

3) Innate immune mechanisms in Alzheimer's disease and neurodegeneration
Triggering receptors expressed on myeloid cells (TREM) are cell surface receptors encoded on human chromosome 6 that we found to be differentially expressed on granulocytes, dendritic cells, macrophages and osteoclasts and regulate their functions [6]. Human deficiency in TREM2 or the associated signaling adaptor DAP12 causes a progressive, early onset dementia known as Nasu-Hakola disease. Recently, a TREM2 polymorphism was implicated as a genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD). We are currently exploring the capacity of TREM2 to promote microglial cell function and how TREM2 allelic variants result in susceptibility to AD. We also recently demonstrated that the cytokine IL-34 promotes the proliferation and survival of microglia through the receptor CSF-1R [7]. We are testing IL-34 as a therapeutic strategy for neurodegenerative diseases.

Selected Publications

Fuchs A, Vermi W, Lee JS, Lonardi S, Gilfillan S, Newberry RD, Cella M, Colonna M. Intraepithelial type 1 innate lymphoid cells are a unique subset of IL-12- and IL-15-responsive IFN-gamma-producing cells. Immunity 38:769-781, 2013 Abstract

Wang Y, Szretter KJ, Vermi W, Gilfillan S, Rossini C, Cella M, Barrow AD, Diamond MS, Colonna M. IL-34 is a tissue-restricted ligand of CSF1R required for the development of Langerhans cells and microglia. Nat Immunol 13:753-760, 2012 Abstract

Wang Y, Swiecki M, McCartney SA, Colonna M. dsRNA sensors and plasmacytoid dendritic cells in host defense and autoimmunity. Immunol Rev 243:74-90, 2011 Abstract

Swiecki M, Gilfillan S, Vermi W, Wang Y, Colonna M. Plasmacytoid dendritic cell ablation impacts early interferon responses and antiviral NK and CD8(+) T cell accrual. Immunity 33:955-966, 2010 Abstract

Cella M, Fuchs A, Vermi W, Facchetti F, Otero K, Lennerz JK, Doherty JM, Mills JC, Colonna M. A human natural killer cell subset provides an innate source of IL-22 for mucosal immunity. Nature 457:722-725, 2009 Abstract

Klesney-Tait J, Turnbull IR, Colonna M. The TREM receptor family and signal integration. Nat Immunol 7:1266-1273, 2006 Abstract

Cella M, Jarrossay D, Facchetti F, Alebardi O, Nakajima H, Lanzavecchia A, Colonna M.. Plasmacytoid monocytes migrate to inflamed lymph nodes and produce large amounts of type I interferon. Nat Med 5:919-923, 1999 Abstract

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Current Trainees

Victor Cortez
Michelle Robinette
Christina Song
Alexander Barrow
Luisa Cervantes
Tom Hannan
Satoru Joshita
Renata Sesti-Costa
Yaming Wang

Past Trainees

Graduate Students
Axel Bouchon
Cecilia Buonsanti
Anja Fuchs, PhD
Maristela Hernandez
Jacob Lee
Steve McCartney
Aaron Rapaport
Isaiah Turnbull
Yaming Wang
Timothy Wilson

Postdoctoral Fellows
Winfried Barchet
Amanda Blasius
Kent Boles
Jes Dietrich
Leonid Gitlin
Izumi Kawachi
Julia Klesney-Tait
Anne Krug
Gaelle Le Friec
Hideo Nakajima
Karel Otero
Laura Piccio
Rachel Presti, MD, PhD
Sarah Rowland
Melissa Swiecki
Ilaria Tassi
Yoshinori Yamanishi