Viral Immunopathology Unit

Lab head: Professor Nicholas King
Location: Blackburn Building, Camperdown

Research conducted by this unit focuses on the immunobiology of cell membrane surfaces, with particular emphasis being placed on studying the processes which control cell membrane architecture and the modulation of cell surface molecules (specifically, those which are involved in immune cell interactions). Much of the work carried out in this laboratory concerns the flavivirus, West Nile Virus, which curiously brings about an increase in major histocompatibility, as well as increased antigen and adhesion molecule expression in mammalian cells following infection. For a virus, this is a seemingly suicidal action, because this increases the efficiency of the adaptive immune response. However it is clear that the adaptive immune response contributes to the pathogenesis of disease; that is, the anti-viral immune response causes immunopathology.

Changes in gene expression in neurons and microglia in WNV encephalitis

Primary supervisor: Nicholas King

We have shown that in WNV encephalitis, resting microglia (the macrophages of the brain) differentiate into a highly activated phenotype. They also increase MHC and adhesion molecule expression and proliferate and migrate to surround infected neurones. We think these cells clear the WNV from neurones, since in interferon-gamma gene knockout mice, which show much greater activation of microglia, animals survive 3-fold better. However, significant numbers of blood-derived inflammatory macrophages which migrate to the brain can also turn into microglia. We think these macrophage/microglia may contribute to the immunopathology in WNV encephalitis. The aim of this project is to examine the expression of various genes in neurones and microglia during infection, to determine the progress of events by looking at changes in various cell populations and determine how WNV is cleared from the brain

Discipline: Pathology
Co-supervisors: Iain Campbell