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Dr Lindsay Nicholson

Autoimmune inflammation reserach

Group: Autoimmune Inflammation Research (AIR)

The focus of most of the research in the laboratory is studies of the cells of the immune system. If you don’t know anything about immunology, you may want to check out our questions and answers, where we have tried to explain autoimmunity for people who haven’t studied immunology.

There are very many different cell types involved in an inflammatory reaction, but it takes at least two types of cell to make an adaptive immune response; an antigen presenting cell and an antigen specific responder cell. Our favourite examples of these are the macrophage and the CD4+ T cell. We choose these because both cell types play complimentary and crucial roles in the diseases that we study. Our research focuses on how these cells are switched on and how they might be switched off. We are particularly interested in characterising how proteins from the retina can activate specific T cells, since it is believed that CD4+ T cells co-ordinate autoimmune responses. Once they are switched on, we study how this activation process is regulated, for example by investigating the epigenetic control of cytokine genes. We also study how these cells accumulate in the eye during disease and how, once they are there, they can be activated by macrophages.

Projects relating to macrophages focus on how their interactions with molecules found in the environment modifies their function. We have studied a cytokine called tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) extensively, because drugs that block this cytokine are an effective therapy in some forms of autoimmunity. We also study how macrophages are controlled by interactions with the extracellular matrix, especially via the matricellular protein thrombospondin-1, and by signals delivered via the cell-receptor proteins CD200 and TLR-4.


Research keywords

  • Uveitis
  • CD200
  • TNFR1
  • MDSC
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis
  • EAE
  • Experimental Autoimmune Uveoretinitis
  • EAU
  • Autoimmunity

Membership of professional bodies

  • Uveitis Multiple Sclerosis

Processes and functions relevant to this work

  • Autoimmunity and inflammation


  • Andrew Dick (Bristol) David Wraith (Bristol) Ana Anderson (Harvard) Owen Jepps (Brisbane) Markus Munder (Mainz)