Dr Kikki Bodman-Smith
Academic and research departmentsSchool of Biosciences and Medicine.
- BSc Biology, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London
- PhD Immunology, University College London, University of London
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Department of Surgery, University College London, University of London
- Immunology Group, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London
- Lecturer in Immunolgy, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey
Current research interests lie in understanding the role of the inflammatory acute phase proteins in innate immune responses to infection and in inflammatory disease and how they may interact with the acquired immune response. This can be further divided into (i) The effect of acute phase proteins on host cells particularly in relation to inflammatory disease (ii) Host cell receptors used by acute phase proteins for pathogen uptake and (iii) The role of acute phase proteins on pathogen survival.
Professor Johnjoe McFadden
Ernesto Oviedo-Orta and the Cardiovascular research group
A well-known histopathological feature of diseased skin in Buruli ulcer (BU) is coagulative necrosis caused by the Mycobacterium ulcerans macrolide exotoxin mycolactone. Since the underlying mechanism is not known, we have investigated the effect of mycolactone on endothelial cells, focussing on the expression of surface anticoagulant molecules involved in the protein C anticoagulant pathway. Congenital deficiencies in this natural anticoagulant pathway are known to induce thrombotic complications such as purpura fulimans and spontaneous necrosis. Mycolactone profoundly decreased thrombomodulin (TM) expression on the surface of human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HDMVEC) at doses as low as 2ng/ml and as early as 8hrs after exposure. TM activates protein C by altering thrombin's substrate specificity, and exposure of HDMVEC to mycolactone for 24 hours resulted in an almost complete loss of the cells' ability to produce activated protein C. Loss of TM was shown to be due to a previously described mechanism involving mycolactone-dependent blockade of Sec61 translocation that results in proteasome-dependent degradation of newly synthesised ER-transiting proteins. Indeed, depletion from cells determined by live-cell imaging of cells stably expressing a recombinant TM-GFP fusion protein occurred at the known turnover rate. In order to determine the relevance of these findings to BU disease, immunohistochemistry of punch biopsies from 40 BU lesions (31 ulcers, nine plaques) was performed. TM abundance was profoundly reduced in the subcutis of 78% of biopsies. Furthermore, it was confirmed that fibrin deposition is a common feature of BU lesions, particularly in the necrotic areas. These findings indicate that there is decreased ability to control thrombin generation in BU skin. Mycolactone's effects on normal endothelial cell function, including its ability to activate the protein C anticoagulant pathway are strongly associated with this. Fibrin-driven tissue ischemia could contribute to the development of the tissue necrosis seen in BU lesions.
Monocytes are considered refractory to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus type 1 (PRRSV-1) infection. However, monocytes are only short-lived in blood, being able to differentiate into macrophages and dendritic cells (DC). It was therefore merited to revisit PRRSV-1 interaction with monocytes, particularly those treated with cytokines influencing monocyte biology. Thus, several factors were screened, particularly those modulating monocyte differentiation and expression of putative PRRSV-1 receptors (CD169 and CD163). M-CSF, known to stimulate macrophage differentiation, did not increase their susceptibility to PRRSV-1. Nor did GM-CSF or IL-4, known drivers for monocyte-derived DC (MoDC) differentiation. In contrast, monocyte treatment with IL-10 or the corticosteroid, dexamethasone, known to be potent suppressors of monocyte differentiation, was correlated with increased susceptibility to PRRSV-1 infection. While this effect was strongly correlated to CD163 and CD169 expression, our data suggest that receptor expression is not the only factor driving successful infection of PPRSV-1 in monocytes.
Neisseria meningitidis is a global cause of meningitis and septicemia. Immunity to N. meningitidis involves both innate and specific mechanisms with killing by serum bactericidal activity and phagocytic cells. C-reactive protein (CRP) is an acute-phase serum protein that has been shown to help protect the host from several bacterial pathogens, which it recognizes by binding to phosphorylcholine (PC) on their surfaces. Pathogenic Neisseria species can exhibit phase-variable PC modification on type 1 and 2 pili. We have shown that CRP can bind to piliated meningococci in a classical calcium-dependent manner. The binding of CRP to the meningococcus was concentration dependent, of low affinity, and specific for PC. CRP appears to act as an opsonin for N. meningitidis, as CRP-opsonized bacteria showed increased uptake by human macrophages and neutrophils. Further investigation into the downstream effects of CRP-bound N. meningitidis may lead us to a better understanding of meningococcal infection and help direct more effective therapeutic interventions.