BS, MS, Biochemistry, Biology & Chemistry
MD, PhD Student
Stephen Bunnell, PhD, Adviser
T-cells are a crucial component of the vertebrate immune system and enable robust adaptive immune responses by recognizing antigens unique to particular pathogens. However, we do not yet have a complete understanding of how antigen recognition by the T cell receptor (TCR) leads to the activation of T-cells. In particular, while the biochemical and transcriptional events regulated by the TCR have been studied extensively, it is not yet clear how the TCR rapidly modulates crucial aspects of cellular behavior associated with T cell activation, including changes in cell morphology, adhesion, migration, and vesicle transport (e.g. cytolytic killing). In the Bunnell laboratory, we use dynamic live-cell imaging techniques to understand the relationship between TCR-proximal signaling events and these 'effector' functions. Recently, we demonstrated that the signaling hotspots ('microclusters') formed in response to TCR ligation also function as adhesive structures that organize rapid changes in cytoskeletal organization. My project specifically focuses on understanding how the adaptor proteins ADAP and SKAP55 function within SLP-76 microclusters. In addition to their roles in canonical immune signaling, we hypothesize that these molecules link the TCR-proximal signaling apparatus to the effectors that coordinate the changes in cytoskeletal organization, adhesion, and migration that are associated with T-cell activation.
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