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Cambridge Infectious Diseases

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Studying at Cambridge


Host-Pathogen Interactions

Understanding the mechanisms of pathogenesis caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites plays a key role in understanding infectious diseases.

Pathogenesis – literally how disease (pathos) begins (genesis) or develops –- is a broad, important area of research encompassing both basic and clinical sciences. In infectious diseases, pathogenesis commonly occurs as a consequence of complex interactions between an infecting pathogen and the immune system. In order to understand how a particular pathogen causes disease it is critical to determine how host immunity (including both the innate and acquired arms of the immune system) resists infections. Our researchers here at Cambridge are working advancing our understanding of the interactions between resident and invasive microbes and the immune system and the implications of these findings for human and animal health.

Explore Campus

Immunity and infection research is closely intertwined at the University, and includes a number of research groups and programmes studying host-pathogen interactions:

People specializing in this area

Principal Investigators

Dr Francis Jiggins

The evolution of resistance to infection in insects

Dr Tom Monie

My research is interested in the innate immune response, the primary defense mechanism of the body against infection and danger. In particular I am working to understand how proteins known as pattern recognition receptors are activated by molecular danger signals, and how these signals are passed on in the cell to start an immune response. Most of my current work focuses on the NOD-like receptor (NLR) family members NOD1 and NOD2. Both NOD1 and NOD2 are found in the cytoplasm of cells. They detect fragments of peptidoglycan from the cell wall of both Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria and initiate a pro-inflammatory immune response. My research is currently focusing on the following areas of NOD1 and NOD2 biology:

  • Ligand binding - NOD1 and NOD2 bind their ligands directly. I am investigating exactly how they do this and whether this is different in other species such as zebrafish.
  • Mechanisms of signal transduction - Following activation of NOD1 and NOD2 signal transduction happens as a result of protein-protein interactions with adaptor proteins. I am interested in understanding what these interactions are and whether they can be disrupted for therapeutic purposes.
  • The impact of polymorphisms - a number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (mutations) in NOD2 have been identified as susceptibility markers for Crohn's Disease, whilst others cause the genetic condition Blau Syndrome. Part of my work is assessing the functional and structural impact of these polymorphisms to better understand how they cause disease.
  • NLR regulation - dietary and microbial compounds can alter the behaviour of pattern recognition receptors and are an interesting area of current study.
  • NLR evolution - comparative sequence analysis between different species is being used to identify and investigate very important amino acids in the function of NLR proteins.

To perform these studies a range of biochemical, cell-based, biophysical and structural techniques are used. In addition computational biology and protein homology modelling forms an ever expanding area of research interest. I am always keen to develop new collaborations.