Department of Pathology

Professor Jim Kaufman

Research description

In the past, our work has focused on determining the genomic structure of the chicken MHC, the sequence polymorphism, peptide motifs and expression levels of MHC molecules, the effect of the dominantly-expressed class I and class II molecules on the immune response, and the development of a conceptual framework to explain the MHC strategy of chickens and other non-mammalian vertebrates in comparison to typical mammals.

Some of this work will continue, but our focus in Cambridge will shift to (1) a detailed understanding of co-evolution between genes of the chicken MHC, (2) the effect of single dominantly-expressed class I and class II molecules on the cells and receptors which recognise them, and (3) the importance of sequence polymorphism, peptide-binding and expression level on disease resistance, vaccine response and other phenomena at an individual and population level.

As a start, we plan (in part with valued collaborators at the Pirbright Institute, the Roslin Institute and the Universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen, Harvard, Munich, Oxford, Queensland, Sheffield, South Denmark and Southampton) to:

  1. Use molecular biology, biochemistry and cell biology to study the structure and functional relationship of sequence polymorphism in class I genes with the potentially co-evolving TAP, tapasin and B-NK genes, class II B genes with DM genes, and BG genes with their as-yet-unidentified ligands.
  2. Use molecular biology, biochemistry and cellular immunology to culture dendritic cells, T lymphocytes, NK cells and other important cells, and to study their cell surface molecules, and then determine the relationship between MHC molecules and these cells and receptors.
  3. Use molecular biology, biochemistry, cellular and whole animal immunology, and epidemiology to study responses to particular pathogens and vaccines, as well as to study the potential importance of the MHC in sexual selection and reproduction.

Most recently, we have been examining how the transmissible tumour that is decimating the Tasmanian devil escapes immune rejection. We have also (with valued collaborators) been extending some of this work to other birds and to certain fish, and to begin to evaluate the contribution of other loci to the immune response of chickens.

Also affiliated with the Department of Veterinary Medicine, www.vet.cam.ac.uk