Antigen presenting cells and antigen presentation

Antigen processing and presentation was pioneered by Emil Unanue, MD and Paul Allen, PhD in 1985 and remains an active area of research in the department. Researchers involved in this area include:

Autoimmune and inflammatory diseases

The department has a long history of research in autoimmune diseases, particularly in the study of autoimmune diabetes. Currently, a wide variety of laboratories study autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases, including atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, EAE/multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriasis. Others work on the basic science of inflammatory processes. Researchers include:

Cancer immunology and DNA damage repair

For many years, the immune system was not thought to play an important role in tumor rejection.  The cancer immuno-editing hypothesis developed by Robert Schreiber, PhD has clearly shown the importance of the immune system in controlling the growth of tumors.  This has helped support new approaches to use the immune system to treat cancer. Researchers include:

Epigenetics, development and lineage commitment

The mechanism of how immune cells like T and B lymphocytes, macrophages and dendritic cells develop and become committed to a specific lineage is a particular strength of the division. Emerging topics include a focus on the epigenetics of aging, cancer and the influence of the microbiome on health and disease. Researchers include:


New technologies like two-photon microscopy and STORM/PALM allow for immunological reactions to be visualized in real-time as well as at the molecular level. The development of novel fluorescent reporter mice allows new types of events to be visualized. Furthermore, new tissue preparation and clearing techniques give confocal imaging ever greater power in visualizing the immune response in mouse and man.

Immune receptors and signal transduction

Identification of new receptors and transcription factors important to immune function and understanding how they function is an important area of research in the group.  In addition, a wide variety of signaling pathways downstream of receptors is being studied in the division.

Infection and immunity

How the immune system recognizes and responds to pathogens is an area of active interest in the department. Research focuses on the specific innate and adaptive recognition of microorganisms, as well as viral immune evasion. Researchers include:

Innate immunity

Research in the department involves innate recognition receptors that recognize both extracellular and cytoplasmic pathogens and pathways critical to innate immunity, like autophagy and generation of mitochondrial Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). Strengths of the division are in macrophage diversity and function, NK cells and the role of the gut microbiota in regulating the immune system. Researchers include:


Stem cell biology

Stem cell research in the department includes studies of self-renewal, lineage commitment and differentiation of embryonic, induced pluripotent, hematopoietic and epithelial stem cells. Some laboratories use these cells to study lymphomas and other cancers, as well as the germinal center reaction. Researchers include:

Structural biology in immunity

The structural basis of pathogen evasion and host-pathogen interactions has a productive history in our department and now serves as the host of a structural biology core, with additional access in the school to leading techniques including cryo-EM. Researchers include:

Immunobiology affiliates from other departments