Characterization of novel isoforms of tapasin and their function in immune modulation

A healthy immune system constantly monitors the body, helping to detect and eliminate infected cells and those that become cancerous. This system is mediated by a group of molecules called MHC Class 1, which adhere to and present a sample of the contents of a cell for scanning by T cells. T cells are specialized immune cells that are programmed to recognize and destroy abnormal or infected cells. In auto immune disease, such as Crohn’s disease, Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis, this system breaks down and the T cells kill both abnormal cells as well as healthy ones. Robyn Seipp is researching the role of a specific molecule within the MHC Class 1 assembly pathway called tapasin. This molecule assists in the assembly and determination of which proteins are presented to the T cells on the cell surface. Her research is examining two newly discovered variants of the tapasin molecule that appear to function differently. She is studying these variants of tapasin to determine their effect on how, when and where immune responses to various pathogens or tumours are made. Results from her research will help better understand how tapasin contributes to the body’s ability to mount immune responses to pathogens and cancers while avoiding autoimmune diseases. A better understanding of their function could have important implications for vaccine design and may lead to better application of generalized tumour therapy.