Greta Guarda studied Molecular Biology at the University of Zurich and at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. She carried out her PhD work on T cell trafficking under the supervision of Federica Sallusto and Antonio Lanzavecchia at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Bellinzona. In 2007, she joined the group of Jürg Tschopp at the University of Lausanne as a post-doctoral fellow, and focused her research on NOD-like receptors in the context of inflammasome function. She was appointed senior lecturer in 2010 and Assistant Professor funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation in 2012. Her current research focuses on the function of NOD-like receptors that are highly expressed, but poorly characterized, in adaptive immune cells.
PATTERN RECOGNITION RECEPTORS IN INNATE AND ADAPTIVE IMMUNITY
In innate immune cells, the expression of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), such as NOD-like receptors (NLRs), is crucial for early detection of endogenous stress signals or infections. However, certain NLRs are highly expressed by T lymphocytes, an aspect that has been largely overlooked. It is possible that these PRRs may provide T lymphocytes with functions resembling that of innate immune cells. Alternatively, they might exert novel functions in roles more traditionally associated with adaptive immune system pathways.
One focus of our research is the study of NLRC5, an emerging NLR family member. By using Nlrc5-deficient mice, we recently showed that NLRC5 is not involved in innate sensing, but acts instead as a transcriptional regulator of major-histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I, particularly in lymphocytes (Staehli et al., The Journal of Immunology, 2012; Ludigs et al., Plos Genetics, 2015). Currently, we are interested in delineating the molecular aspects of underlying NLRC5 activity and its implications in infection and malignant transformation.
As anticipated by our data on NLRC5, we expect that a detailed analysis of NLR function in adaptive immune cells will reveal unexpected aspects of their signaling, or highlight unappreciated innate features of T lymphocytes. Both scenarios would be equally innovative and may provide us with new opportunities for therapeutic intervention.
Key words: NOD-like receptors (NLRs); NLRC5; MHC class I; transcriptional regulation; adaptive immunity; T cells; innate immunity; NK cells; infection; tumor