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Professor John Trowsdale

Professor John Trowsdale

Division of Immunology

Emeritus Professor

Project: Interactions between polymorphic modulators of immunity

Department of Pathology
University of Cambridge
Tennis Court Road

Addenbrookes Site
Hills Road

Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 330248

Research themes




Research Interests

The human major histocompatibility complex (MHC) encodes the most polymorphic proteins in the human genome and is associated with more diseases than any other region. Unravelling this complex of human loci, from sequence to function, will help to understand autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis. The class I and class II molecules encoded by the MHC play a pivotal role in alerting the rest of the immune system to disease by interacting with receptors on T cells. A major part of our work concerns these molecules. Other genes embedded in the MHC provide additional clues to mechanisms of immune recognition and we are studying the functions of some of them, including butyrophilin-related proteins (BTNs).

Trowsdale Research
Receptors in the Leukocyte Receptor Complex and some proposed ligands

Further information on the state of health of a cell is provided by interaction of MHC class I molecules with other receptors, on natural killer (NK) cells. Like some MHC genes, the NK receptors are part of extensive gene families. They are involved in activating, or inhibiting NK cells and some T cells. We are studying the organisation of the NK-receptor gene families, their polymorphism and association with disease, particularly in relation to interaction of the receptors with different MHC class I molecules.

Research associates:
Chiwen Chang
Martin Jahnke
Des Jones
Andreas Neerincx

David Rhodes
James Traherne

Claudia Alicata


  • Immune system
  • Immunology
  • MHC
  • Histocompatibility

Key Publications

  1. van der Ploeg K, Chang C, Ivarsson MA, Moffett A, Wills MR, Trowsdale J. Modulation of Human Leukocyte Antigen-C by Human Cytomegalovirus Stimulates KIR2DS1 Recognition by Natural Killer Cells. Front Immunol. 2017 Mar 29;8:298.
  2. Fielding CA, Weekes MP, Nobre LV, Ruckova E, Wilkie GS, Paulo JA, Chang C, Suárez NM, Davies JA, Antrobus R, Stanton RJ, Aicheler RJ, Nichols H, Vojtesek B, Trowsdale J, Davison AJ, Gygi SP, Tomasec P, Lehner PJ, Wilkinson GW. Control of immune ligands by members of a cytomegalovirus gene expansion suppresses natural killer cell activation. Elife. 2017 Feb 10;6. 
  3. Kelly A, Trowsdale J. Introduction: MHC/KIR and governance of specificity. Immunogenetics. 2017 Aug;69(8-9):481-488.
  4. Norman PJ, Hollenbach JA, Nemat-Gorgani N, Marin WM, Norberg SJ, Ashouri E, Jayaraman J, Wroblewski EE, Trowsdale J, Rajalingam R, Oksenberg JR, Chiaroni J, Guethlein LA, Traherne JA, Ronaghi M, Parham P. Defining KIR and HLA Class I Genotypes at Highest Resolution via High-Throughput Sequencing. Am J Hum Genet. 2016 Aug 4;99(2):375-91.
  5. Rhodes DA, Reith W, Trowsdale J. Regulation of Immunity by Butyrophilins. Annu Rev Immunol. 2016 May 20;34:151-72.