Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
“Cell Surface Receptors Involved in T-Cell Activation are Down-Regulated in Presence of Tumor in Mice”
The cell surface molecules Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) and Intercellular Adhesion Molecule 1 (ICAM1) on Antigen Presenting Cells (APCs), and T cell receptor (TCR) and lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA1) on T-Cells are required for efficient activation of T-Cells. This activation is stimulated through the formation of the immunological synapse, the interface between an APC and T-Cell. Since there is an accumulation of Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) in tumor bearing patients, in this study, we want to see whether MDSCs alter the immunological synapse formation, leading to inefficient activation of T-Cells. To address this, we collected macrophages and T-Cells from the blood and spleen of tumor-free and 4T1 mammary carcinoma-bearing BALB/c mice. After staining ICAM1, MHC II, and LFA1 and using flow cytometric analysis, we found that ICAM1 is down-regulated in macrophages in both blood and spleen, and LFA1 is down-regulated in T-Cells from the blood of tumor-bearing mice compared to that of tumor-free mice. These results suggest that the function of the immunological synapse is reduced in the presence of cancer. Our future goal is to figure out how the presence of MDSCs may affect synapse formation and restrain the body from producing a normal immune response.
How did you find your mentor for year research project?
When I was looking for research mentors on campus, some upper classmen suggested that I look into Dr. Rosenberg’s lab, especially since I had some background in oncological research. I looked at her research on the UMBC website, and the research excited me; although I had conducted oncological research before, I had not explored the immunological approach to cancer before. I e-mailed Dr. Rosenberg about my interest in her lab, and it all started from there!
Is this your first independent research project?
No, I have worked in three other research labs before this, including an HHMI funded project.
How much time do you put into it?
I try to put in an average of 16-18 hours a week for research, but it varies depending on the experiment being conducted.
How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?
My PI, Dr. Rosenberg, emailed me about the URA. One of the senior undergraduates in my lab was a previous URA scholar, and she encouraged me to apply.
Was the application difficult to do?
Not at all – it was very straightforward and easily accessible.
What has been the hardest part about your research?
The hardest part about research is effectively communicating the results of the research to others, and this is something that Dr. Rosenberg, my mentor, Dr. Sinha, and others in the lab are working with me on so that I can continuously improve on this essential skill for any researcher. I am practicing this skill by presenting in lab meetings and conferences both here at UMBC, as well as other states.
What was the most unexpected thing?
The most unexpected thing about this internship was that, through my experience, I am getting to make so many valuable connections to people, who can (or have already) helped me out in many ways. It gives me immense pleasure to see that people understand and appreciate the research that I am doing, and are willing to help me to continue researching.
How does your research relate to your work in other classes?
When we research, we are expected to learn very specific details about one subtopic under a larger umbrella subject. In college classes, we start by learning those umbrella subjects in a very broad manner, and as classes go on, we learn the more specific details. Therefore, there are many times that I have light bulb moments in class or lab, when I am able to connect what I already know with what I am learning.
What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Research is extremely important, no matter what subject area we are involved in, because it teaches us to think critically, a skill essential for any type of career today. I would like to encourage all students to get involved in some type of research in these undergraduate years. The experience can help you to narrow down your career choice and develop essential skills for that career as well.