Strominger Laboratory

The study of histocompatibility led to the understanding of the mechanisms of immune recognition and to the discovery of novel molecules and cells involved in these processes, including Class I and Class II proteins encoded in the major histocompatibility complex of all vertebrates examined and T cell receptors.

The normal human response to bacterial and viral infection involves these molecules and results in either the generation of T helper cells and antibodies or of cytotoxic T-lymphocytes. In addition, many important human autoimmune diseases are linked to particular alleles of MHC Class I and Class II proteins. Recently, the importance of still another immune recognition system mediated by Natural Killer (NK) cells has become apparent.

Contact

Research

My laboratory is currently focused on 3 main projects:

  • The role of MHC proteins and of products of other disease susceptibility genes in human autoimmunity, including multiple sclerosis, diabetes, pemphigus vulgaris, and ankylosing spondylitis;
  • Activating and inhibitory immunological synapses in human natural killer cells: how they are formed and how they function, particularly in relation to lipid rafts;
  • Uterine decidual lymphocytes and their roles in the immunobiology of pregnancy. This project involves characterizing uterine lymphocyte populations and the many unusual proteins they produce in implantation and the maintenance of pregnancy.

Teaching

SCRB 178 (formerly MCB268)

Molecular Immunology

This Spring course originally started as a graduate 200 level course. However, for the past five to ten years, it has been a favorite of undergraduates as well as graduate students. That is an index of advancing undergraduate education. Through lectures and student presentations you will learn not only how to understand and evaluate primary literature but also how to convey your thoughts with clarity and efficacy. The course is limited to 17 students but 15 is even better because one of the main purposes of the course is to help students learn to read current scientific papers critically and to present them to others.

The primary objective of the course is to provide you with in-depth perspective of the current field of immunology over a wide range of controversial topics. This is accomplished by having a two-hour lecture by an expert in the field, of which there are many at Harvard, followed in the next session by presentations by three students of selected articles. We hope each student will present three times in the course (in lieu of exams) and we provide substantial guidance for the first two presentations at least. A primary purpose of the course is to help students learn how to present scientific material to others. Many of you will go on to medical school or to a PhD program. Whatever you do, you will be asked to present material to others. We read one review article in connection with the lecture and usually three papers from the current literature not more than 18 months old for the following session. In this way you will obtain a view of the status of many fields of immunology now. There is no final exam but in its place we ask the students, in groups of three again, to prepare a lecture (as though they were teaching the course) on a topic not covered, of which there are many.