A central aspect of the immune response is antigen-specific recognition by T lymphocytes. As well as peptides, T cells can recognize lipids that form antigenic complexes with CD1 molecules expressed on the surface of antigen-presenting cells. Our research aims to understand T cell recognition of lipids in autoimmune diseases, infections and cancer. Unlike T cell responses to peptide antigens, lipid-specific responses are characterized by the absence of functional polymorphism in CD1 molecules and the lack of lipid structural changes during immune selection. This robustness makes lipids excellent targets for novel immunotherapeutic approaches. We are particularly interested in elucidating the molecular mechanisms that determine T cell tolerance versus immunity to self lipids. These studies are especially relevant to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases including multiple sclerosis, atherosclerosis, and diabetes, where lipid-specific immunity is key. Our goals are to exploit lipid-specific responses in novel immunotherapies and to investigate immunogenic lipids as disease-specific biomarkers.
Lucia Mori obtained her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Pisa. During her postdoctoral training in molecular immunology at the Basel Institute for Immunology and at the University of Milano, she studied TCR genes and the specificity of antigen recognition of T lymphocytes. At Hoffmann-La Roche, Central Research Units, she established a new experimental model to study the role of TCR genes in the induction of autoimmunity in mice.
In 1994 she joined the Department of Biomedicine of the Basel University Hospital, where she became interested in T cell recognition of non-peptide antigens. She was involved in the discovery of phosphorylated self-metabolites stimulating human TCR γδ cells, and of self-lipid antigens stimulating TCR αβ cells.
She joined SIgN in January 2010.