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Cambridge Immunology Network



Our immune system helps us stay healthy even though we are constantly exposed to harmful bacteria and viruses. This system is a network of white blood cells and proteins that constantly surveys our body and, on encountering signs of attack, will start to eliminate the infection. This decision to act must be made with care; a weak response may lead to uncontrolled disease, but over-activity could cause an unwanted response to our own cells, as in auto-immune diseases like arthritis or multiple sclerosis.
My research focuses on how T cells, a white blood cell type, make these decisions to initiate an immune response. The signalling network inside these cells is very complex, so it has been difficult to understand how they function at the level of the individual molecules involved. To overcome this problem, I have created a "model" T cell that is capable of replicating the early decision-making process but is much simpler to experiment with. This research will lead to a better understanding of how our immune system can discriminate between infected and healthy cells. This is essential to create improved therapeutic means to control our immune system when it does not work effectively to protect us.


Key publications: 

JR James & RD Vale Biophysical mechanism of T cell receptor triggering in a reconstituted system Nature (2012) 487:64-9

JR James et al. The T cell receptor triggering apparatus is composed of monovalent or monomeric proteins J Biol Chem (2011) 286:31993-2001

JR James et al. Single molecule-level analysis of the subunit composition of the T-cell receptor on live T cells Proc Natl Acad Sci (2007) 104:17662-7

JR James, MI Oliveira, AM Carmo, A Iaboni & SJ Davis A rigorous experimental framework for detecting protein oligomerization using bioluminescence resonance energy transfer Nat Methods (2006) 3:1001-6

Dr John  James
Takes PhD students
Not available for consultancy


Person keywords: 
co-stimulatory molecules
immune synapse
computational modelling
confocal microscopy
western blot
T cell receptor (TCR)
flow cytometry
helper T cells
adhesion molecules
mathematical models of the immune response
complex systems
molecular biology
live cell imaging
immune signalling
signal transduction
fluorescence microscopy
kinetic segregation