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Mentor: Steven Varga, PhD
Undergraduate Institution: St. Olaf College
Year Entered Into Program: 2010-2011
I am interested in the host immune response to
respiratory viral pathogens specifically focusing on regulation of the immune
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play a critical role in the
modulation of immune responses to prevent immune-mediated pathology. Tregs are
identified by their selective expression of the transcription factor Foxp3.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza A virus (IAV) both induce an
inflammatory environment in the lung that can result in immunopathology when not
properly regulated. Inhibition of the adaptive immune response by Tregs can
prevent immunopathology as well as delaying viral clearance creating a fine
balance between immune regulation and activation.
The cells and signals
that mediate Treg activation during an acute viral infection are currently not
well understood. Dendritic cells (DC) are potent antigen presenting cells (APCs)
responsible for induction of the adaptive immune response during a primary viral
infection. A number of mechanisms may account for the stimulation of Tregs
following acute RSV infection. Thus, DC may play a primary role in mediating
Treg activation following acute RSV infection by stimulating nTregs or inducing
the generation of inducible Tregs. Alternatively, inflammatory cytokines may
nonspecifically activate natural Tregs during an acute viral infection.
This project will increase our understanding of the factors involved in
driving a Treg response during an acute RSV infection.
Weiss KA, Christiaansen AF, Fulton RB, Meyerholz DK, Varga
SM. Multiple CD4+ T Cell Subsets Produce Immunomodulatory IL-10 During
Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection. J Immunol. 2011 Sep 15;187(6):3145-54.
Epub 2011 Aug 15. Pub Med PMID: 21844390.
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