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Eric S. Huseby received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering (1992) and Ph.D. in Immunology (2000) from the University of Washington. He was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute post doctoral fellow at the National Jewish Medical Center. He joined the Department of Pathology at the University of Massachusetts as a faculty member in September of 2006 and is a 2007 Arnold and Mabel Beckman Young Investigator and a 2008 Searle Scholar.

Development of T cell tolerance of self and the autoimmune consequence of when it fails.

Dr. Eric Huseby

My lab is focused on the molecular and cellular pathways that govern the generation, maintenance and function of a self tolerant T cell repertoire and the autoimmune consequences of when self tolerance fails. To understand how T cell repertoires develop and how defects in the process lead to autoimmune disease, we are studying three major aspects of T cell function.

1) How does the specificity of the TCR for MHC + peptides (pMHC) effect T cell development and drive T cell function?

The ability of T cells to distinguish highly similar peptide ligands bound to a specific class of MHC proteins (pMHC) is the underlying basis for a functioning adaptive immune system. Failures in purging self-reactive TCRs underlie the predisposition to autoimmune disease. To understand why self-reactive T cells are generated and how they recognize pMHC ligands, we have created a series of analytic methods to probe TCR-pMHC binding. The methods we are generating use high-throughput pMHC display libraries to decipher how T cells interact with their pMHC ligands. These novel display libraries will be used to decipher how positive and negative selection shapes the T cell repertoire and to evaluate how TCR cross-reactivity for pMHC ligands influences which T cells enter an immune response.

2) How does the affinity and binding kinetics of TCR – pMHC interactions impact mature T cell activation and memory T cell formation?

Mature T cells undergo rapid differentiation into effector and memory T cells when challenged with high affinity pathogen derived ligands. To study how mature T cells discriminate between different affinity ligands, we have created a series of viruses that express biophysically defined T cell ligands for CD4 T cells. Using these recombinant viruses and corresponding CD4 T cells, we are determining when, where and how T cells determine to enter into the immune response.

3) Why do some self-reactive T cells escape tolerance induction and when activated, induce autoimmunity?

Although thymic deletion purges most T cells with reactivity for self proteins, autoimmune diseases clearly demonstrate that T cell tolerance of self is incomplete. Many studies have indicated that everyone harbors T cells reactive to self proteins, however only a fraction of people succumb to autoimmune disease. Thus not all self reactive T cell repertoires are pathogenic. Using a T cell mediated model of the autoimmune disease, we are determining whether there is a T cell intrinsic difference in self-reactive, pathogenic versus non-pathogenic T cell repertoires or whether all self reactive T cell repertoires have the capability to pathogenic and autoimmunity is predominately a reaction to a specific triggering event.

Rotation Projects


Potential rotations

1. To examine how TCR affinity and specificity for MHC + peptide influences the development and activation of CD4 T cells.

2. To assess the impact of self tolerance on the specificity, affinity and pathogenic potential of T cells reactive to proteins expressed in the central nervous system and b-islet cells of the pancreas.

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