Corbett Laboratory: Mucosal-Associated Invariant T cell detection of microbial metabolites, activation and immune function

Research Overview

View Associate Professor Corbett's latest PubMed publications listing here.

Our team study mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells. We seek to understand how vitamin-based antigens are produced by microorganisms, how MAIT cells detect these antigens and how we can manipulate MAIT cell functions to improve outcomes in infectious and non-infectious diseases.

Current projects:

  • Understanding the genesis of MAIT cell antigens.
    Our team identified the known natural mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cell antigens, small molecule antigens which form as chemical adducts, incorporating microbial riboflavin biosynthesis metabolites and small cellular metabolites (e.g., methylglyoxal and glyoxal). Most work to date has focussed on the riboflavin-based metabolites made by microbes. We now seek to understand the impact of these small cellular metabolites on antigen formation and MAIT cell activation. Since various disease conditions are known to change the levels of methylglyoxal and glyoxal, this project has implications for understanding the role of MAIT cells in infection, inflammatory diseases, and cancer.
  • Understanding the life and death of MAIT cells.
    T cells expand in number during bacterial infection in order to combat the pathogen. After the infection is cleared most of these T cells must die to prevent uncontrolled responses which can damage the host. The balance between life and death in a cell is finely controlled through several cell death pathways. Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells rapidly and dramatically expand in number and provide protective immunity against several bacterial pathogens. After the infection, MAIT cells are retained in high numbers for several months. We have intriguing data to show that MAIT cells differ from other cells in their molecular control of cell death and now seek to understand these differences. Results may have implications for targeting MAIT cells for vaccination against infectious diseases and more broadly in understanding cell death control of activated T cells.


Associate Professor Alexandra Corbett, Lab Head

Dr Timothy Patton, Research Officer

Xin Yi Lim, Research Assistant

Dr Jeremy Rajanayagam, PhD student

Dr Freya Harewood, PhD student

Eleanor Eddy, PhD student

Rangsima (May) Pongvattanaporn, Master of Biomedical Science student


The Corbett team collaborates widely with local and international groups to explore the function and role of MAIT cells in various contexts including human and mouse models of infectious and non-infectious diseases. The Corbett Laboratory is also part of the MAIT cell programme headed by Professor Jim McCluskey, which also includes the group of Dr Sidonia Eckle and Dr Zhenjun Chen. We have weekly MAIT cell programme data meetings, and our groups collaborate closely on several projects.


2021-2025 NHMRC Investigator Grant.

2021-2023 ARC Discovery Grant (CIA).

2017-2021 ARC Future Fellowship. (FT160100083).

2021-2027 Dame Kate Campbell Fellowship.

Research Opportunities

This research project is available to Honours students to join as part of their thesis.
Please contact the Research Group Leader to discuss your options.

Research Outcomes

Inventor: Patent. 2013286823 (Aus Granted Apr 19, 2018, 10011602 (US, Accepted) (WO2014/005194). Immunological Reagents and Uses Therefor. 9 Jan 2014. Kjer-Nielsen L, McCluskey J, Corbett AJ, Rossjohn J, Patel O, Fairlie DP, Liu L.

Inventor: Patent. 15/300,023 Granted, US 2nd April 2019. (PCT/AU2015/050148). Immunological Reagents and Uses Therefor. 1 Apr 2015. Corbett AJ, Kjer-Nielsen L, McCluskey J, Chen Z, Eckle SBG, Rossjohn J, Patel O, Birkinshaw R, Fairlie DP, Liu L, Mak JYM.

Research Projects

For project inquiries, contact our research group head.

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Infection & Immunity

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Head of Laboratory A/Prof Alexandra Corbett

Department / Centre

Microbiology and Immunology

Unit / Centre

Corbett Laboratory: Mucosal-Associated Invariant T cell detection of microbial metabolites, activation and immune function

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