The Gumperz lab studies how an innate lymphocyte subset called Natural Killer T (NKT) cells influences immunological processes ranging from inflammation to hematopoiesis.
NKT cells recognize lipids as antigens presented by CD1d glycoproteins, which are antigen presenting molecules that are expressed on antigen presenting cell types including dendritic cells (DCs). One of the lipids that can activate NKT cells is lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC). LPC is produced during the biosynthesis of eicosanoid lipid messengers, and thus is closely linked to inflammation. When NKT cells become activated they produced soluble factors and upregulate cell surface molecules that signal DCs to produce inflammatory messengers (prostaglandins, leukotrienes, cytokines, chemokines). These recruit and activate phagocytes to promote microbial clearance. Interestingly, NKT cells may undergo very similar interactions with CD1d-expressing common myeloid progenitor cells in the bone marrow, and these interactions may lead to enhanced myelopoiesis.