Effective immune responses against infectious agents and cancer require that immune cells traffic efficiently to the correct locations and then identify and specifically respond to threats by interacting with other cells. Lymphocytes are particularly well suited for these tasks because they can completely reorganize their cellular architecture in a matter of minutes in response to surface receptor stimulation. This remarkable structural plasticity enables them to function both rapidly and effectively in a wide variety of physiological contexts. We aim to understand the signaling mechanisms that underlie these morphological changes, which could aid in the development of strategies to better modulate immune function in vivo. We are particularly interested in:
Polarized cytoskeletal remodeling at the immunological synapse. We study how signals from activating receptors shape synaptic architecture and how inhibitory stimulation antagonizes synapse formation.
The role of cell polarity and cytoskeletal dynamics in specifying lymphocyte effector responses, with special emphasis on cytotoxic killing by T cells and natural killer (NK) cells.
Developing photochemical methods for single-cell analysis of polarized signal transduction. Our efforts focus on using localized pulses of light to stimulate cell surface receptors during imaging experiments.