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Antiviral defense mechanisms at the mucosal surfaces

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Akiko Iwasaki, Ph.D.
Professor of Immunobiology and of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Iwasaki received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and completed her postdoctoral training at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the laboratory of Dr. Brian Kelsall. She joined Yale University as a faculty member in 2000. Dr. Iwasaki’s research focuses on the mechanisms of immune defense against viruses at the mucosal surfaces. Her laboratory is interested in how innate recognition of viral infections lead to the generation of adaptive immunity, and how adaptive immune responses protect the host from viral challenges.


Research over the past two decades has led to the fundamental understanding that initiation of immune responses to infectious microorganisms relies on pathogen recognition by innate microbial sensors, collectively known as pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). PRRs fall into several families, each of which recognizes distinct pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). Stimulating PRRs results in transcriptional activation of genes involved in innate defense as well as those that activate antigen-presenting cells for successful priming of “adaptive” T- and B-cell responses. Direct stimulation by PAMP of dendritic cells, which are key antigen presenting cells, is required to elicit T cell immunity. Despite these advances, we know very little about how immune responses are generated during the course of a natural infection. Since most pathogens enter the human host through mucosal surfaces, understanding the rules that govern immunity at these sites is critical for the development of efficacious vaccines. Dr. Iwasaki will discuss the mechanisms of innate and adaptive immune protection against viruses at mucosal surfaces and highlight the role of different innate sensors and cell types in mediating protective immunity.

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