Understanding factors that influence self-reactive thymocyte fate

Summer 2017

Jaewon (Jenny) Yoon : Molecular and Cell Biology, Immunology

Donor: Thye Fund
Mentor: Ellen Robey

Some thymocytes, or T cell precursors, have the ability to respond to self-antigens. If these thymocytes were to leave the thymus, they would develop into conventional T cells with the potential to drive autoimmune diseases. To prevent self-reactivity, these cells are often deleted from the repertoire through a process known as negative selection. Some, however, undergo agonist selection, which results in the development of lineages with protective and regulatory roles.

One agonist selected lineage is CD8αα intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs). There is little known about what promotes the development of CD8αα IEL precursors in the thymus and the factors that determine whether a thymocyte will undergo negative or agonist selection. To address this question, I will use a thymic slice model to investigate a thymocyte’s propensity to undergo negative selection versus agonist selection at different stages of maturation. Altogether, this will help us better understand self-reactive thymocyte fate and the mechanisms in place to prevent autoimmunity.

I would like to thank the Thye Foundation for providing me the opportunity to pursue independent research this summer. It was exciting to explore my previous research further by becoming more involved in the process of designing and executing experiments. Over the summer, I was able to learn new data analysis techniques and begin to understand the process of weaving together a compelling story from the data. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, SURF allowed me to develop a closer relationship with my faculty mentor, Dr. Ellen Robey. Dr. Robey mentored me throughout not only the scientific aspects of designing and performing research, but she also provided me with a larger perspective in potential post-graduation paths. I am excited to speak more with her as I complete my senior thesis and determine my career path.