Department: Molecular Pathology & Immunology
Faculty Mentor: Heather Pua, M.D., Ph.D.
Dissertation Description: Determine how miRNAs regulate immune cell metabolism to control effector responses
Functional non-coding RNAs called microRNAs (miRNAs) represent a central regulator contributing to the gene expression networks that support immune cell function and survival following antigenic challenges. Our preliminary findings indicate that individual miRNAs from the miR-23a-27a-24-2 and miR-23b-27b-24-1 clusters restrain T helper 2 effector cytokine production by influencing multiple processes, including ones involved in regulating cell metabolism. Based on these observations, we have developed a thesis project focused on how the aforementioned clusters orchestrate cell metabolism to limit effector immune cell activity. Because modulating metabolic pathways has been shown to profoundly impact immune cell differentiation and function, establishing how specific miRNAs regulate core metabolism would exploit unappreciated vulnerabilities that could be targeted in diseases associated with a defective immune system.