Immune cells, and T cells in particular, display an enormous degree of developmental plasticity, which manifests itself in the existence of multiple functional subsets, each displaying characteristic effector functions, cytokine profiles and tissue specificities.
Since the discovery of the classical Th1/Th2 paradigm, and more recently sparked by highly sophisticated methodology for phenotypic, transcriptional and epigenetic profiling of complex cell populations at the single cell level, it has become increasingly clear that many apparently distinct T cell ‘subsets’ represent a continuum of flexible states with a varying degree of overlapping characteristics. Moreover, there is ample evidence that T cells retain a substantial degree of plasticity, allowing them to acquire ‘novel’ functions that are tailored to subsequent immune challenges and/or changing conditions, which may likewise apply to innate immune cells such as NK cells.
Against this background, the CRC 1054 has set out to explore the determinants of this remarkable plasticity of cell-fate decisions in the immune system, both in terms of the developmental decisions of precursor cells under homeostatic conditions and in terms of the flexible and often reversible adaptation of ‘mature’ cells to immune challenges. Understanding the signals that control immune cell-fate decisions and how these signals are read and interpreted provides fundamental insights into the biology of the immune system, contributing also novel perspectives for targeted immune therapies.
The CRC 1054 is a research consortium of 18 projects in the greater Munich area led by renowned immunologists based in the LMU Biomedical Centrum, TUM institutes, the Helmholtz Zentrum Munich as well as 2 satellite groups in Jena and Erlangen.