MAIT cells in homeostasis and microbial infections

Project Details

Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are T cells that recognise metabolic by-products in the context of MHC class I-related protein 1(MR1), from vitamin B2 (riboflavin) biosynthesis, an essential metabolic pathway for many microbes. These cells are enriched at anatomic portal sites, including the lungs, liver, intestines and skin, where they conduct immune surveillance of potential pathogens and rapidly respond to infections.

We have evidence that MAIT cells display distinct (with some overlapping) features from conventional T cells both in homeostasis and during infection.  The biology of this unique T cell subset and their versatile roles in protection, pathogenesis, and mucosal barrier function, have not yet been fully elucidated. Understanding the biology of MAIT cells will enable us to harness their potential in vaccination and immune therapy for a range of infections or health conditions.

We are seeking bright young PhD students to join us for a range of projects in this area.

The McCluskey group has made significant breakthrough discoveries in MAIT cell immunity. These include identifying the antigens recognised by MAIT cells (Kjer-Nielsen et al, Nature 2012, Corbett et al, Nature 2014, two patents) and development of MR1-tetramers (Patented) (Reantragoon et al, JEM 2013). Thus, we are best equipped with reagents (tetramers of various species and MR1/MAIT synthetic ligands) and well established in vitro/vivo (animal) models (Wang et al Mucosal Immunol 2017; Nat Comms 2018) to enable your successful research.

Our laboratory is in the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, at The University of Melbourne. We have close collaborations within the Doherty Institute and worldwide, and are particularly strong in the following areas:

  1. Novel ligand discovery by mass spectrometry,
  2. In vivo (animal models) and in vitro (cellular activation) systems for microbial infections and MR1/MAIT novel ligand discovery

Dr Zhenjun Chen                             Dr Alexandra Corbett                           Dr Sidonia Eckle


Dr Zhenjun Chen, head researcher
Dr Alexandra Corbett, head researcher
Dr Sidonia Eckle, head researcher

Research Group

McCluskey laboratory: Role of MAIT cells in health and disease

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Molecular Mechanisms of Disease

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Microbiology and Immunology

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