Dr Mai Ping Tan - Current Projects

T cell NK cell

T cells are activated when they recognise foreign antigens (e.g. virus) or pathogenic self-antigens (e.g. tumour). These antigens are “seen” by the T cell via the T cell receptor (TCR) after they have been processed and subsequently displayed on other cells through the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecule. However, the ultimate outcome of T cell activation depends on many other factors, such as the binding strengths of the antigen to MHC and of the peptide-MHC complex to the TCR, the presence of CD4 and CD8 co-receptors on the T cell, as well as the engagement of other co-stimulatory molecules (such as CD28 and B7). I am interested in studying how TCR engagement to the peptide-MHC complex affects the resulting T cell effector functions. By using techniques to determine the amount of soluble factors secreted by such activated T cells (ELISA) and the production of the same factors on a per cell basis (polychromatic flow cytometry), it is possible to examine in a systemic fashion how T cell effector function changes (whether enhanced or abrogated) when the affinity between the TCR and peptide-MHC is altered. The objective of this work is to ultimately decipher the degree of antigen affinity required to tailor the TCR in order to achieve an optimal protective immune response in specific diseases, including viral diseases and cancer.