Christiaansen, Allison

Allison Christiaansen


Mentor: Steven Varga, PhD

Undergraduate Institution: St. Olaf College

Year Entered Into Program: 2010-2011


  • Microbiology

Research Description

I am interested in the host immune response to respiratory viral pathogens specifically focusing on regulation of the immune response.

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.