Projects

We study how the immune system attacks invading pathogens - and why it sometimes goes wrong.  We’re particularly interested in microbes that evade or hijack the human immune system.  You can learn more about our ERC-funded project to discover more about pathogen evolution on our MitoFun page.

On the right, the fatal fungus Cryptococcus neoformans is escaping from a macrophage (a type of white blood cell) by a process called vomocytosis  (you can also find out more on the vomocytosis Wikipedia page).  Below, you can see the macrophages response - ‘actin flashes’ that act to trap the fungus inside the immune cell.

During their time within a macrophage, cryptococci use a variety of strategies to manipulate the host's normal "killing" response.  One of these is to prevent the phagosome from becoming too acidic.  You can see that in the movies below, or read more about it in our paper here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cmi.12394

One of the big questions about vomocytosis is how it is influenced by inflammation.  We recently found the first piece of this puzzle, by showing that pathogen expulsion is directly regulated by a signalling molecule called ERK5.  You can read more about that in our recent Science Advances paper

https://more.bham.ac.uk/maylab/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2018/10/TBflowplot-e1540504678836-500x500.jpg

 

We're also very interested in how our immune system deals with complex threats, like co-infections with two different organisms at the same time.  On the left you can see a flow cytometry based assay to identify macrophages infected with both Cryptococcus and tuberculosis (the upper right quadrant).  To the right you can see a human macrophage tackling a dual infection with Cryptococcus (red) and the measles virus (green).