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Dr John James

Dr John James

Sir Henry Dale Fellow (Wellcome Trust)

John James is accepting applications for PhD students.

Office Phone: 01223 267280

Research Interests

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.


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 ; receptors ; immune signalling ; signal transduction ; phosphorylation ; immunobiology ; fluorescence microscopy ; kinetic segregation ; signalling

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