Marco Colonna, MD

Robert Rock Belliveau Professor of Pathology and Immunology

Additional Titles

  • Professor of Immunobiology
  • Professor of Medicine

Research Lab

Research Interests

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.


Pub Med Search

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

Teresa Page

Lab Phone: 314-362-0368
Office Location: BJC-IH Building, Office Suite B 8212