Beth Tamburini, PhD - Assistant Professor of Medicine and Immunology
Anne Tye, PhD - Post-Doctoral Fellow
Alyssa Goldber, MD - Pediatric Fellow
Jeffrey Finlon - Professional Research Assistant
Erin Lucas - Graduate student - Immunology Graduate Program
Johnathon Schafer - Graduate student - Molecular Biology Graduate Program
My lab is interested in how interactions between lymphatic endothelial cells (LEC) and canonical immune cells shape immune responses to infections, cancer, and chronic inflammation. These three areas of interest aim to expand the field of lymphatics in immunity by understanding the function of the lymphatic endothelium across tissues and systems. My discovery that lymphatic endothelial cells in the lymph node have the capacity to hold onto antigens for long periods of time in order to educate memory T cells led me to become interested in how the lymphatic endothelium interacts with immune cells. We were the first to demonstrate antigen hand-off from LECs to dendritic cells for the maintenance of protective immunity and is often confused with other work showing LECs as antigen presenting cells to induce immune tolerance. These different functions of LECs (promoting immune memory vs. influencing immune tolerance) lead to questions about how LECs handle different types of antigens. When do LECs themselves present antigen (e.g. self-antigens), when do LECs hand-off antigen (e.g. foreign antigens), and how do LECs handle multiple antigens. Thus, understanding the activation state of LECs, and the signals which activate LECs to take up antigen and induce antigen hand off (such as division and death), may allow us to manipulate the function of LECs.
Our more recent data focuses on how the lymphatic endothelium of the lymph node responds to innate immune stimuli. We are beginning to understand the molecular signals used by the LECs to initiate lymphatic expansion and how different populations of LECs diverge across tissues and organs. Importantly we are interested in the expression of PD-L1 by the lymphatic endothelium and find it striking that both during infection and during tumor progression PD-L1 expression by the lymphatic endothelial cells increases. We are utilizing this information to identify potential contributions of the lymphatic endothelium during both infection and in tumor tolerance.
Thus, the overarching goal of my research program is to understand how the lymphatic stroma recognize and react to stimuli within the lymph to guide the immune response. We have been working to dissect how the lymphatics of the lymph node, liver, and in tumors respond to stimuli such as proteins, small molecules, fat, cholesterol, alcohol, and infectious material. We think it is likely that these interactions are important for guiding the immune response to immune insults such as chronic inflammation, infection and cancer. We are developing projects focused around the role of lymphatics in the liver and gut during homeostasis and inflammation. Our lab utilizes a number of programs on campus to enhance our expertise and collaborations including the GI and Liver Innate Immune Programs, the Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Initiative, the Consortium for Fibrosis Research and Translation, and the RNA Bioscience Initiative.