The interplay between diet, immune cells and intestinal microbes ensures vital functions of the organism, such as energy and micronutrient extraction from the diet, protection from pathogenic microbes and maintenance of a healthy epithelial barrier. These complex networks are of vital importance to organismic homeostasis, while inadequate relationships can lead to cancer and chronic inflammatory diseases, which are major Public Health concerns.
Adaptive immune lymphocytes express recombining antigen-specific receptors. These lymphocytes are activated by defined antigens and require a differentiation phase before exerting their effector function. In contrast, innate lymphocytes display rapid effector functions despite their set of limited germ-line encoded receptors. A mounting body of evidence indicates that in addition to their well-established developmentally regulated program, immune cells are also controlled by dietary signals and neuronal inputs. Thus, although there is tangible evidence suggesting that immune cells possess unexpected sensing strategies, how lymphoid cells perceive, integrate and respond to environmental cues remains poorly understood and vastly unexplored.
We centre our efforts on defining lymphocyte sensory mechanisms in health and disease. We use an integrative across-level approach aiming to elucidate the tenets of lymphocyte sensing and communication, within, across and beyond the organism.