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.

Why isn't the foreign embryo rejected by the mother? The role of infection in alerting the mother's immune system to her embryo.

Primary supervisor: Nicholas King

In the embryo MHC and ICAM-1 is downregulated shortly before implantation. This is thought to enhance the implantation of the embryo, since the effect of foreign proteins donated genetically by the father's sperm are not seen by the mother's immune system. The local area of the uterus is also immunosuppressed and specific changes occur in the mother which allow the foreign embryo to continue to develop, rather than be rejected. However, it does not make evolutionary sense that the mother is unable to distinguish viruses from the foreign paternal MHC expressed in the placenta. If this were so, it could lead to the death of the mother from infection. Using WNV infection as a tool, we are infecting the trophectoderm of embryos and re-implanting them into mothers to see if the immune system can distinguish virus infection from mere paternal "foreignness". Because of the technical demands of this project this is available for a PhD student only.

Discipline: Pathology