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Cambridge Immunology Network



It could be deemed appropriate to view terrestrial vertebrates as a combination of many species and their genetic build as a composite of genes embedded in their own genome and in the genomes of affiliated microbial partners: the microbiome.

The body’s large surfaces, harbouring many resident commensals, are, however, also exposed to potentially harmful micro-organisms. These surfaces include the skin and the gastro-intestinal tract.

Several barriers are in place to prevent microbes invading our bodies, the first of which is the epithelial cell layer. Although sufficient to prevent invasion by most microbes, this is not always adequate.

A second line of defence is formed by cells of the immune system, providing protection against those microbes that overcome the epithelial barrier or which invade the body after trauma.

Interestingly, many commensal micro-organisms are highly beneficial to us and are instrumental in mediating physiologically important chemical transformations, whilst the cells of the epithelial barrier themselves are important for nutrient processing and uptake. Hence, an immune reaction at these sites needs to be tightly controlled and tailored to the potential threat-level of the micro-organisms detected (commensals vs. harmful opportunistic pathogens), with minimal damage to self, and with swift resolution and wound repair.

Our laboratory studies the role that cells of the immune system play at the initiation, modulation and resolution of immune responses at epithelial barrier sites. These studies provide insights into the mechanisms that control the maintenance of a resident population of micro-organisms, promoting healthy living, and the prevention of undesirable immune responses that may result in chronic infections, allergies, autoimmunity and an increased risk of cancer.


Key publications: 

Veldhoen M, Brucklacher-Waldert V. Dietary influences on intestinal immunity. Nat Rev Immunol. 2012 12 (10):696-708

Ferreira C, Veldhoen M Host and microbes date exclusively. Cell 2012 149 1428-1430

Moens E, Veldhoen M Epithelial barrier biology: good fences make good neighbours. Immunology 2012 135 1-8

Li Y, Innocentin S, Withers DR, Roberts NA, Gallagher AR, Grigorieva EF, Wilhelm C, Veldhoen M  Exogenous stimuli maintain intraepithelial lymphocytes via aryl hydrocarbon receptor activation. Cell 2011 147 629-640

Hirota K, Duarte JH, Veldhoen M, Hornsby E, Li Y, Cua DJ, Ahlfors H, Wilhelm C, Tolaini M, Menzel U, Garefalaki A, Potocnik AJ, Stockinger B Fate mapping of IL-17-producing T cells in inflammatory responses. Nature Immunology 2011 12, 255-263

Veldhoen M, Withers DR Innate lymphoid cell relations.  Science 2010 330 594-595

Dr Marc  Veldhoen
Takes PhD students
Available for consultancy


Departments and institutes: 
Person keywords: 
epithelial cells