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Marathons for T Cells: How They Keep on Killing

Wednesday, June 15, 2022 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm


Gillian Griffiths, Ph.D.
Professor of Cell Biology and Immunology
Director, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research
University of Cambridge

Dr. Griffiths is a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow and a professor of immunology and cell biology at Cambridge Institute for Medical Research. Her research lies at the interface between cell biology and immunology. Her lab has used insights from human genetic disorders to understand the cell biology of cytotoxic T lymphocytes, immune cells that destroy cancerous and virally infected cells. Her work has revealed new concepts in both immunology and cell biology by identifying important parallels between biological systems. These include the observations that many cells of the immune system use lysosomes as secretory organelles, and that their polarised secretion involves a unique role for the centrosome that closely mimics centrosome polarisation during ciliogenesis. These findings not only link the fields of immunology, cell and developmental biology but provide new avenues for understanding molecular mechanisms relevant to health and disease, providing the foundations for the development of targeted cancer immunotherapy.


My presentation will focus on the cell biology that underlies the remarkable ability of cytotoxic T lymphocytes to act as serial killers, with individual cells providing sustained killing in response to cancer or virally infected targets. I’ll describe a screen that picked up genes that are required for sustained killing and revealed an unexpected role for mitochondria as homestatic regulators of CTL killing. I’ll then describe work by a former NIH-OxCam student that reveals an (again unexpected) role for transcription during killing. Time permitting, I will add the next step in this story as we begin to reveal the multiple mechanisms that contribute to serial killing by CTLs.


  • To understand the fascinating cell biology that underlies killing by cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs)
  • To appreciate a novel role for mitochondria as homeostatic regulators of effector function in immune cells.

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