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Cambridge Infectious Diseases

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Studying at Cambridge


Professor Jim Kaufman

Professor Jim Kaufman

Evolution of immunity, focusing on the chicken MHC

Research themes

Host-Pathogen Interactions:

diseases of poultry (primarily viral diseases of chickens); Devil Facial Transmissible Tumour (a transmissible tumour of Tasmanian devils)

Drugs and Vaccines:

Vaccines for poultry (primarily viral vaccines for chickens); experimental vaccines for Devil Facial Tumour Disease (a transmissible tumour of Tasmanian devils)

Departments and Institutes


Research Interests

I am interested in the evolution of immunity, focusing on the chicken MHC. Among our discoveries are:

1. existence of single dominantly-expressed chicken class I and class II molecules which determine the immune response to pathogens and vaccines

2. importance of co-evolution between polymorphic genes that lead to the expression of a single class I molecule

3. presence of lectin-like (NK) receptor and CD1 genes suggesting they were present in the primordial MHC.

I continue to explore:

1. roles of chicken MHC molecules in resistance to pathogens and response to vaccines

2. roles of polymorphism and co-evolution for MHC genes involved in antigen presentation

3. ramifications of our findings for the evolutionary history of the MHC.

My long-term plans include whole genome studies in chickens, development of chickens as a system with a smooth transition between field and laboratory for study of natural pathogens in a natural host, and work on other vertebrates.

Key Publications

Salomonsen J, Sorenson MR, et al (2005), “From the cover: Two CD1 genes map to the chicken MHC, indicating that CD1 genes are ancient and likely to have been present in the primordial MHC. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci”, USA 102:8668–8673

Wallny, H. J, Avila D, et al (2006), “Peptide motifs of the single dominantly-expressed class I molecule can explain the striking MHC-determined response to Rous sarcoma virus in chickens. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci”, USA 103:1434–1439

Koch M, Camp S, et al (2007), “Structures of an MHC class I molecule from B21 chickens illustrate promiscuous peptide binding”, Immunity 27:885–899