Congrats Jamie and the international team on awarded funding for an 8-year research programme from global charitable foundation Wellcome Trust.

A team led by Professor Graham Ogg, Deputy Director of the MRC Translational Immune Discovery Unit (TIDU) and Leader of the Translational Dermatology Unit, alongside Professor Jamie Rossjohn (Monash, Australia and TIDU Affiliate member), Professor Branch Moody (Harvard, USA), Professor Muzlifah Haniffa (Newcastle) and Professor Gurdyal Besra (Birmingham), have received a Wellcome Discovery Award to investigate how immune cells contribute to inflammation.

The research programme will be strongly collaborative, bringing together researchers with complementary skills from the co-applicant laboratories to address how T cells can specifically sense certain lipids which can be indicators of infection or tissue damage.

Immune cells help protect us from infections and other challenges, but can also contribute to different forms of inflammation if not adequately controlled.  T cells are a key type of immune cell that circulates in the bloodstream and can enter different organs to sense infection and damage.  By understanding how T cells are triggered, the research team aims to gain deeper knowledge about different forms of inflammatory diseases and how they might develop new approaches to treatment.

The Wellcome Discovery Award will also promote training and development opportunities and will facilitate interactions with patients, the public and scientific communities.  The discoveries will be made available in open databases, to enable the wider field and drive improvements in human health.

Original article


Congrats Adam on your Cell paper

Researchers create “Lipidomic Map,” offering insights into immunology

An international team of scientists has developed a method for simultaneously detecting thousands of lipid molecules that are displayed to T cells in the human immune system.

The study, co-led by Professor D. Branch Moody, MD, of the Division of Rheumatology, Immunity and Inflammation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Adam Shahine, PhD, at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute represents a collaboration among researchers from Oxford, United Kingdom, Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and Groningen, Netherlands. The results were published today in Cell.

The team developed a new and sensitive method to detect more than 2,000 lipids bound to CD1 antigen presenting molecules, which display antigens to the human immune system.

While scientists have long known that T cells recognise antigens, until the 1990s, it was thought that these antigens were always peptides derived from proteins. Because lipids are not encoded by genes and are instead made by enzymes and form into membranes, they have entirely different functions and positions in the cell.

The ability to measure many lipid antigens at one time will allow future researchers to cross-check any disease-related lipid of interest to the list of candidate lipid antigens from this map and potentially make connections to diseases.

Their efforts yielded the first integrated CD1 lipidomic map, which could help guide the investigation and discovery of lipid blockers and antigens for T cells and support the view that lipids normally influence immune responses.

The research builds on earlier methods that separate cellular lipids in one chromatographic system, which provided only a limited perspective. The new structural biology work, undertaken by Dr Shahine, ARC DECRA fellow, showed how lipids fit inside proteins using size-based mechanisms.

Combined, the structures and biochemistry detail rules about the size, shape, and chemical content of the kinds of lipids that can bind CD1 and cause a T cell response—either activation or deactivation. It is the latest in a series of studies that date back to the 1990s, when Brigham scientists discovered that T cells can recognise lipid antigens.

Splashdown“. The image provides a prism for thinking about how oily antigens are recognized in aqueous solution. Four lipid presenting molecules, CD1a, CD1b, CD1c and CD1d, including a three dimensional CD1-lipid complex, fall toward the surface of a blue and watery environment surrounding a T cell. Image credit: Dr Erica Tandori.

“In this ambitious decade-long, multidisciplinary study, we have characterized the full spectrum of cellular lipids that can be displayed to T cells. Further, we have collated 25 years of structural biology data, as well as new data collected at the ANSTO Australian Synchrotron, to standardize the rules that govern the molecular mechanisms in lipid presentation” said Dr Shahine. “Our hope is that the data generated in this study will serve as a foundation for future research in the field of lipid mediated immunity.”

Professor Moody said, “The Brigham provides an environment where physicians and scientists from differing fields can collaborate. This multidisciplinary effort involved biophysical techniques related to mass spectrometry and biological techniques related to lipid chemistry. The lipids informed immunological outputs, and the mode of lipid recognition is proven through X-ray crystallography.”

Read the full publication in Cell, titled CD1 lipidomes reveal lipid-binding motifs and size-based antigen-display mechanisms

DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2023.08.022.

Original article

Congrats Praveena on the award of the ARC DECRA

Monash BDI early career researchers awarded more than $2m ARC DECRA funding

Five Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) researchers have been awarded $2.23 million under the 2023 ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme.

Minister for Education, Hon Jason Clare MP, announced $85 million for 200 projects nationwide to support early career researchers under the DECRA scheme.

Researchers at the Monash BDI received five awards to support a diverse range of discovery research into nanobiotechnology, bacterial membrane remodelling, microbial life in the atmosphere, lipid-mediated T cell immunity, and understanding how T cells recognise and respond to foreign antigens.

“This success is a testament to the depth of excellence in our early career researcher cohort, and I congratulate this outstanding group of recipients,” said Professor John Carroll, Director of the Monash BDI.

The grants awarded to the Monash BDI are:

Project: ‘Molecular insights into lipid-mediated T cell immunity.’ Dr Praveena ThirunavukkarasuRossjohn Lab, awarded $421,485

This project involves the discovery of novel lipids produced by the microbiome that play a significant role in T cell-mediated immunity. Using a combination of cutting-edge technologies such as mass spectrometry, protein crystallography, immunology and biophysics, this project will elucidate the molecular factors that govern the interaction between the identified lipids and T cells. This innovative research will provide fundamental insights into the recognition mechanism of lipids by T cells at a molecular level, thus broadening our knowledge in the field of biological sciences. The expected research outcomes will increase Australia’s international research standing in this burgeoning area of lipid-mediated T cell immunity.

Project: ‘A novel bacterial secretion system for applications in nanobiotechnology.’ Dr Christopher StubenrauchLithgow Lab, awarded $429,449

This project aims to characterise a new molecular machine, called the S-Pump. Molecular machines drive the complex biology in all cells and are an exciting area of translational research, with broad potential for industrial applications. This project expects to provide fundamental insights into how bacterial S-Pumps contribute to antimicrobial resistance and enhancing food production. Expected outcomes include new tools for molecular machine discovery and identification of ways to adapt molecular machines for biotechnological applications. This work should enhance Australia-UK ties through collaboration, provide benefits toward nanobiotechnology and economic benefits through more efficient food production.

Project: ‘Bacterial membrane remodelling and the interaction with peptides.’ Dr Meiling HanJian Li Lab, awarded $450,241

This project aims to elucidate the fundamental mechanism of lipid remodelling in the Gram-negative outer membrane, which is critical both in preventing noxious compounds and evading host immune defence. For the first time, the complex interplay between bacterial cellular metabolism and membrane remodelling will be defined through systems pharmacology, and the precise membrane-peptide interaction will be examined by computational and biophysical approaches. Novel knowledge will be generated to improve our understanding of how bacteria remodel their outer membrane in response to environmental stress. This will benefit the future design of much-needed antimicrobial strategies including products and technologies to target bacterial membranes.

Project: ‘Microbial life in the atmosphere.’ Dr Rachael LappanGreening Lab, awarded $454,741

This project aims to resolve the nature and basis of microbial life in the atmosphere, the largest but most unexplored potential ecosystem on Earth. The atmosphere plays a role in transporting microbes, but our understanding of resident atmospheric microbial communities and their role in global atmospheric processes is minimal. Using cutting-edge molecular and biogeochemical approaches, this project aims to identify true microbial residents of the atmosphere, understand their mechanisms for survival in this environment and explore their role in seeding newly formed environments. The anticipated outcomes include fundamental knowledge on atmospheric microbial ecosystems, and their influence on global atmospheric processes.

Project: ‘Redefining how T cell recognition drives T cell activation.’ Dr Pirooz ZareieLa Gruta Lab, awarded $470,789

This proposal aims to define the key mechanisms that determine how T cells recognise and respond to foreign antigens; a critical feature that defines effective immunity. To achieve this goal, this proposal will leverage multidisciplinary collaborations and innovative methods to understand how structural and biochemical features of T cell receptor recognition influence T cell mediated immunity and development. In turn, this project will facilitate further research and development in the burgeoning field of T cell biology and advance life science research in Australia. Furthermore, as T cell biology is relevant to all vertebrates, this research will greatly benefit the conservation of threatened animal species and agriculture.

The DECRA scheme is designed to expand the knowledge base and research capacity in Australia and to provide economic, commercial, environmental, social and/or cultural benefits for Australia.

A full list of the 2023 ARC DECRA recipients and their projects is available on the ARC website.

Read the ARC Media Release announcing the DECRA scheme recipients on 16 September.

About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Spanning seven discovery programs across Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Development and Stem Cells, Infection, Immunity, Metabolism, Diabetes and Obesity, and Neuroscience, Monash BDI is one of the largest biomedical research institutes in Australia. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.

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