Understanding the rules of life

Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

Category: Standard Studentships

Antimicrobial peptide induction of epithelial cytokines – triggers and consequences

Project No. 2327


Primary Supervisor

Dr Emily Gwyer Findlay – University of Southampton


Prof Sandra Sacre- University of Sussex


In this project the student will investigate how the presence of antimicrobial peptides alters secretion of cytokines by epithelial cells, and what this means for immune responses.

Dr Gwyer Findlay is an expert in the antimicrobial peptide cathelicidin, which is released by multiple cell types in response to infection, stress, and vitamin D exposure. We have demonstrated previously that this peptide is able to induce the production of multiple cytokines including IL-17, IL-1beta and IFN-gamma from stromal cells such as epithelium, but many questions remain. These include a) what the signalling pathways leading to cytokine release are; b) how cathelicidin is taken up by different cells such as monocytes and epithelial cells; and c) what the impact of this is for local immune cells.

Prof Sacre is an expert in cytokine release during inflammation and innate immune signalling pathways. In this project the student will receive support from both supervisors as they unravel the signalling induced by cathelicidin exposure, and determine how this affects the differentiation and survival of local immune cells including T cells.

This project is therefore focused on a novel area of inflammation biology – how release of these abundant antimicrobial peptides during infection or stress affects the phenotype and function of local stromal and immune cells.

This project is likely to be almost all hands-on wet lab science so the ideal candidate will have had training at an undergraduate level in lab skills, as well as an interest in immunology and cell signalling.