Regulation of Interferon and Innate Signalling
Research Group Head
The Regulation of Interferon and Innate Signalling Research group continues to focus on understanding the molecular regulation of immune responses to infection, inflammation, and cancer, which requires a systems approach.
The interferon (IFN) family of cytokines, which is a key regulator of immunity, is central to these processes. IFNs are produced in response to pathogen recognition by toll-like receptors (TLRs) and other receptors of ‘danger’ signals activated by infection or other cell death signals.
IFNs protect cells from viral infection, activate all effector cells of the immune response and can inhibit tumour cell growth. However, in certain situations, IFNs can be pro-inflammatory and have dose-limiting toxicity as therapies for viral infections and other clinical conditions, which can lead to autoimmune disease. Therefore, an understanding of IFN regulation, how and why IFNs are produced in different circumstances, how IFNs signal differently in different cells, and the discovery of mechanisms to regulate these effects selectively, are vital.
TLRs and IFNs use well-characterised signal transduction pathways such as NF-κB, IRF and STATs. However, there are other relatively uncharacterised transcription factor pathways such as the ETS factors, which scientists and students in the team are currently characterising. Furthermore, since cytokines do not act in isolation, scientists in the Regulation of Interferon and Innate Signalling group is interested in the cytokine environment in which IFNs and other factors operate.