The innate immune system is designed to protect us from microbial invasion; however not all microbes are harmful, and often it is best to avoid, or tailor, responses so that the immune system does not itself cause disease. Failure in regulation of immune responses leads to chronic inflammation and autoimmunity.
The overall theme of our research is to understand how innate immune receptors are regulated. This is important for human health because although most innate immune receptors detect unique molecular structures present on microbes and not in the host, a few detect highly conserved structures such as nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). Transmembrane receptors that detect DNA and RNA belong to a family of innate immune receptors called Toll-like receptors (TLRs).
TLR9 is the receptor for DNA and is our model system. We have shown that TLR9 and other nucleic acid sensing TLRs are unique because they are not expressed at the cell surface, and that TLR9 traffics through the Golgi to reach endosomes. We have identified sequences in the cytoplasmic tail that regulate these events. For example, we identified a critical tyrosine that differentially regulates cytokine production, and have uncovered a unique endogenous negative regulatory form of TLR9.
We believe that identification of these regulatory events will reveal proteins or pathways that are therapeutic targets for interfering with TLR9 function and will lead to new treatments for autoimmune diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
October 23, 2017. Dr. Leifer recorded the premier episode of the new podcast, IMMUNE. Look for the launch on November 7, 2017.
August 28, 2017. Welcome to our new undergraduate, Ali Aygun.
July 1, 2017. Christa Heyward completed her post-doctoral position in our lab. Best of luck!
May 2017. Congratulations to Mark Derbyshire and Sean Callagy on their graduation from Cornell!
April 2017. Erika Gruber's manuscript was selected as Cornell's nominee for the Phi Zeta Research Award in Basic Research.