Immunometabolism is an emerging field that investigates the interplay between immunological and metabolic processes. Interest in this field is gaining momentum due to the realization that incorrect metabolic remodeling underlies many aberrant immune responses, and that manipulating cellular metabolism can beneficially enhance or temper immunity.
Our genetics and environment dictate how we metabolize the nutrients we consume and shape our growth, function, appearance, and overall health. The same principles hold true on the cellular level. Just as track runners quickly engage their muscles to propel themselves from rest to sprint after a gun signals the start of the race, pathogen-derived or inflammatory signals drive T lymphocytes of the immune system out of quiescence to rapidly modulate the expression of genes allowing them to acquire new functions.
These changes range from the acquisition of effector functions marked by increased production of cytokines and cytolytic molecules, to the ability to undergo very rapid cell division and migration. Intimately integrated into this program of activation is the regulation of cellular metabolism. The research goal of the Department of Immunometabolisms at the MPI-IE, headed by Erika Pearce, is to define underlying molecular mechanisms that control T cell responses to infection and cancer, with a particular emphasis on how cellular metabolic pathways govern these events. The joint University/MPI-IE research group, headed by Edward Pearce, is interested in studying the mechanisms involved in innate immune cell metabolic reprogramming as well as the immune responses induced by helminth parasites.