Jeremy M. Boss, Phd
Microbiology and Immunology
Emory University School of Medicine
United States of America
Professor and Chair Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University School of Medicine
Our research uses genetic, biochemical, and molecular biological technologies to unravel the mechanisms by which immune system genes are regulated. Two systems are studied. The first focuses on the major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) genes, which are responsible for the presentation of foreign antigens to T lymphocytes. Proper tissue specific regulation of MHC-II genes is essential for the control and development of immune-based responses to pathogens and protecting from cancer and autoimmune disorders. Our studies examine the role that modifiers of chromatin structure play in organizing the architecture and expression of MHC-II genes. Recently, we found that interactions between transcriptional insulators and gene promoters form a unique architecture within the nucleus of each cell that is critical to expression of the gene system. Identification of the factors that control this architecture is a current thrust of the work as these are potential targets to manipulate immune responses and improve the efficacy of vaccination protocols. This repression of function creates a cell fate program, in which cells that can recognize the virus are unable to act to remove it. Recent work has shown that PD-1 is regulated by a complex set of transcription factors that activate or repress the expression of the gene depending on how the immune cells are exposed to antigen. We have also found that this cell fate program is regulated in an epigenetic manner such that the information gained during by one cell can be passed on to its descendants. This work has led to the development of technologies to dissect epigenetic processes across the genome and is being used to define cell differentiation programs. By understanding the mechanisms that govern regulation of these genes, reagents may ultimately be designed to combat chronic conditions.