Alex joined the PNAC Division in 1997 as a Programme Leader Track, before becoming a Programme Leader in 2008. He left the LMB in September 2015.
The initiation of immune responses
The decision whether to launch an adaptive immune response or not is predominantly made through the interaction of three types of cells: antigen presenting cells (dendritic cells and possibly B cells); pro-inflammatory TH cells; and TR cells. Alex’s research aimed to understand the molecular processes that govern the interactions of cells during the initiation of immune responses.
Furthermore, his group were looking to understand the molecular difference between TR cells and pro-inflammatory TH cells. Key to the latter line of inquiry was to elucidate how the interactions between the various cells alter their lineage commitment and how this in turn affects the outcome of the immune response.
To this end the group developed inducible lineage factors that allowed them to change the lineage commitment of T cells on demand and thereby to modulate immune responses. They established a variety of in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro systems which allowed them to examine the molecular processes of interest from many different angles and to confirm their biological relevance. The generation of genetically modified primary cells using a retroviral delivery system became a key tool in their studies.
Trowsdale, J. and Betz, A.G. (2006)
Mother’s little helpers: Mechanisms of maternal-fetal tolerance.
Nat Immunology 7: 241-246.
Sarris, M., Andersen, K.G., Randow, F., Mayr, L. and Betz, A.G. (2008)
Neuropilin-1 expression on regulatory T cells enhances their interactions with dendritic cells during antigen recognition.
Immunity 28: 402-13.
Andersen, K.G., Butcher, T. and Betz, A.G. (2008)
Specific immunosuppression with inducible Foxp3-transduced polyclonal T cells.
PLoS Biol 6: (11):e276.