This laboratory studies T lymphocyte biology with emphasis on antigen presentation, T cell receptor recognition, and lymphocyte homing and trafficking. We demonstrated that immune system T cells are capable of recognizing non-protein lipid and glycolipid antigens presented in the context of CD1 molecules. Thus, the paradigm that T cells recognize only peptide antigens in the context of MHC has been extended to reveal a further universe of foreign and self nonprotein antigens that are recognized in a CD1 restricted manner. Foreign microbial lipids and glycolipids are being studied in the context of vaccine development as their recognition plays an important role in eliciting a previously unappreciated component of T cell immunity in host defense. Studies on recognition of tumor glycolipids and the role of CD1 reactive NKT cells in tumor immunity are also being investigated.
In addition, we are studying the role of cadherins in cell biology and cancer. Cadherins are cell adhesion and signaling molecules that are responsible for the morphogenesis of tissues during development and for their organization and integrity in adults. In addition, cadherins are critical molecules in cell transformation and cell behavior in cancer. We have found that a mesenchymal cadherin, cadherin-11, markedly enhances the migration and invasion of tumor cells. We are developing the reagents that block this molecule and reverse the increased invasiveness it mediates.