Natural killer cells are innate lymphocytes that play a crucial role in anti-pathogen host defense. Abnormalities in either NK cell numbers and/or function have also been consistently identified in autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and systemic lupus erythematous. Our laboratory focuses on understanding in vivo NK responses by studying NK cells during viral infections. NK cells appear to be particularly important in the host defense against large DNA viruses. Indeed, murine resistance to two herpesviruses, murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) and herpes simplex virus- type 1 (HSV-1), as well as to the poxvirus ectromelia has been genetically mapped to the natural killer gene complex on mouse chromosome 6 which encodes a substantial fraction of the mouse NK cell receptors.
Our laboratory is interested in three primary areas:
- Delineating the mechanisms controlling viral-induced NK cell proliferation and homeostasis.
- Characterizing the targets and function of virally-encoded MHC class I-like immunoevasins
- Identification of human NK cell functional deficits in patients with severe/recurrent herpesvirus infections or autoimmune disorders.