Colleen Lau

Assistant Professor
Microbiology & Immunology

College of Veterinary Medicine - Ithaca

Interests: Adaptive Immunity, Cytokines, Epigenetics, Immune Memory, Innate Immunity, Lymphocytes, Natural Killer Cells, T Cells


Immune memory occurs when the immune system remembers previous encounters with pathogens, aberrant cells, or self-antigens to produce a more rapid or robust secondary response upon re-encounter. It stands as the cornerstone of vaccine development and many cellular immunotherapies, and is largely believed to be an exclusive capability of conventional T and B cells. The natural killer (NK) cell, a cytotoxic innate lymphocyte, has challenged these dogmas. Our research aims to leverage the unique ability of NK cells to acquire adaptive features in order to explore immune memory in the context of classic antigen-dependent and more unconventional antigen-independent memory responses. We combine multi-omic approaches with genetic mouse model systems to interrogate in vivo, in vitro, and in silico how different signals integrate to generate an immune memory program. Specifically, we study the following:
Common and distinct mechanisms that dictate classic immune memory responses
We have previously shown that NK cells and CD8 T cells have similar epigenetic features in response to mouse cytomegalovirus. We are exploring the role of several transcription factors and epigenetic features that may have common or distinct functionalities in these cells.
Epigenetic mechanisms that drive antigen-independent immune memory responses
NK cells have the ability to acquire memory-like features upon seeing IL-12, IL-18, and IL-15 simultaneously. We aim to explore how these cytokines translate into epigenetic mechanisms that help rewire these NK cells to become better and more long-lived.

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