The complexity of the immune system has drawn major research efforts to delineate the fundamental molecular mechanisms that govern its function. The recognition of lipids presented by Cluster of Differentiation (CD) 1 system, that could function as T cell antigens further added to this complexity. For one, this revealed the ability of the immune system to detect a diverse array of macromolecules. This also opened a new area of research that focuses on investigating how exogenous and endogenous lipids are able to modulate the immune response.
The human CD1 system is comprised of four CD1 molecules, CD1a, CD1b, CD1c and CD1d. CD1a is structurally similar to the major histocompatibility class I (MHC I) protein and therefore may share a common ancestry. However, as the expression of MHC I is more abundant on many cell types, CD1a is restricted to a select few. Langerhans cells (LCs) for instance, specialized populations of dendritic cells found in the epidermis of the skin, have high expression of CD1a. This makes CD1a mediated T cell responses a target for immunotherapy for patients with skin inflammatory conditions, such as, atopic dermatitis (AD) and psoriasis.
Although there have been major contributions to our understanding of factors that cause skin inflammation, the molecular mechanisms are largely unknown. Research thus far has shown CD1a mediated T cell immune responses to be a key contributing factor in this process.
Our group’s research focuses on identifying novel lipid antigens that mediate T cells responses in skin and identify the mechanisms of how these lipid antigens are loaded on CD1a and presented to T cells. Findings from this research therefore can provide new pathways for therapeutic intervention.