Effective immune responses to eliminate both pathogenic infection and tumorigenic cells require the differentiation and function of immune cell populations including CD4+ T helper and CD8+ cytotoxic T cells. During such responses, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells proliferate and form armies of effector T cells that coordinate the immune response and eliminate both pathogen-infected and tumor cells, respectively. As the threat is eliminated, the number of effector T cells is reduced to avoid potential autoimmunity. During this phase, long-lived memory T cells survive to respond more quickly and robustly to repeated encounters with the same pathogenic insult. This effector-to-memory transition is required for the generation of both natural and vaccine-induced long-term immunity.
By employing cutting-edge molecular biology techniques, our team seeks to elucidate the role of environmental signals and downstream transcription factor networks in regulating both effector and memory T cell differentiation decisions. Ultimately, the overarching goal of our research is to leverage these findings for the development of novel immunotherapeutic strategies to treat human disease.