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Eric O. Long, Ph. D.

Photo of Eric Long, Ph.D. 

Chief, Molecular and Cellular Immunology Section
Laboratory of Immunogenetics

Major Areas of Research

  • Innate lymphocyte function in malaria
  • Proteomics and imaging as tools to investigate signal transduction
  • Regulation of lymphocyte activation through inhibitory receptors
  • Natural killer (NK) cell senescence in pregnancy and cancer

Program Description

We are interested in the role of natural killer (NK) cells in immunity and reproduction. NK cells have also proven to be a very useful tool to study certain fundamental processes. For example, we have gained unique insights into cytotoxic immunological synapses, signaling by integrins, and regulation of cellular function by inhibitory receptors. We integrate quantitative proteomics and imaging with cellular and biochemical techniques to understand the molecular basis of NK cell regulation.

One of our main goals is to understand how signaling by inhibitory receptors controls NK cell biology. We have shown how NK inhibitory receptors recruit a specific phosphatase to block activation signals. We have recently identified a new signal transmitted by inhibitory receptors and are studying how it regulates NK responses. NK inhibitory receptors serve to prevent killing of healthy cells, but they also provide signals for NK cell licensing. We wish to understand the molecular basis for NK cell licensing.

NK cells provide a unique opportunity to study signal transduction by integrins. In contrast to T cells, NK cells receive signals directly from integrin LFA-1, independently of signaling by other receptors. LFA-1 signaling in NK cells induces polarization of lytic granules toward target cells. We are dissecting the signaling pathways for integrin-dependent granule polarization and for degranulation induced by NK activation receptors.

We are interested in the function of NK cells during early pregnancy. NK cells respond to fetal soluble HLA-G by promoting vascular remodeling, which is required for proper blood supply to the fetus. Read more about it on this page.

Little is known about the role of NK cells in malaria and the phenotype and activation status of NK cells during Plasmodium falciparum infection. In collaboration with the Malaria Infection Biology and Immunity Unit and the Lymphocyte Activation Section, we are performing longitudinal studies of NK cells from a cohort of individuals in malaria-endemic areas. Such a systematic analysis of NK cells from the same individuals during dry and wet seasons will provide valuable insights into NK cell function in malaria.

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Dr. Long graduated in biochemistry from the ETH Zürich, Switzerland, spent a year as a postbac at the MRC Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Edinburgh, and obtained a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After postdoctoral research at the department of embryology, Carnegie Institution, in Baltimore, and at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, he returned to Geneva as a junior faculty in the medical school’s department of microbiology. There he began to apply molecular approaches to study MHC class II molecules and processing pathways for antigen presentation to antigen CD4 T cells. He was recruited to the Laboratory of Immunogenetics, NIAID, in 1983, where he has remained to this day. In 1988, he became a tenured investigator and chief of the Molecular and Cellular Immunology Section. In 1995, his research interest shifted from antigen presentation to the regulation of natural killer (NK) cell activation, when his team identified molecular clones for the inhibitory killer cell Ig-like receptors (KIR) and the signaling basis for inhibition.

Research Group

Sumati Rajagopalan, Ph.D., Staff Scientist

Mary E. Peterson, Biologist
Minggang Zhang, Postdoctoral Fellow
Olga M. Antón, Postdoctoral Fellow
L. Michael Thomas, Postdoctoral
Geoffrey Hart, Postdoctoral Fellow
Kaveh Abdi, Biologist
Gunjan Arora, Postdoctoral Fellow
Malcolm Sim, Ph.D. student, Wellcome Trust-NIH Graduate Program

photo of Long's research group
Back row (L-R): Mary Peterson, Sumi Rajagopalan, Eric Long, Kaveh Abdi, Olga Anton, Minggang Zhang
Front row (L-R): Santosh Kumar, Gunjan Arora, Mike Thomas


The 15th meeting of the Society of Natural Immunity (NK2015) will take place in Montebello, Quebec (Canada)—May 2 – 6, 2015

Eric Long was a visiting professor and delivered an endowed chairs seminar at the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, University of Calgary, Canada—March 2014

An MCIS paper has been selected as one of the Pillars of Immunology by the Journal of Immunology—October 2013

Recent Alumni

Dongfang Liu (Postdoc 2005–2010)
Assistant Professor (2012)
Center for Human Immunobiology
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, TX

Yenan Bryceson (Ph.D. student 2003–2008)
Assistant Professor (2011)
Center for Infectious Medicine
Karolinska Institute
Stockholm, Sweden

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Selected Publications

Zhang M, March ME, Lane WS, Long EO. A signaling network stimulated by β2 integrin promotes the polarization of lytic granules in cytotoxic cells. Sci Signal. 2014 Oct 7;7(346):ra96.

Long EO, Sik Kim H, Liu D, Peterson ME, Rajagopalan S. Controlling natural killer cell responses: integration of signals for activation and inhibition. Annu Rev Immunol. 2013 Mar 21;31:227-58.

Rajagopalan S, Long EO. Cellular senescence induced by CD158d reprograms natural killer cells to promote vascular remodeling. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Dec 11;109(50):20596-601.

Liu D, Peterson ME, Long EO. The adaptor protein Crk controls activation and inhibition of natural killer cells. Immunity. 2012 Apr 20;36(4):600-11.

Kim HS, Das A, Gross CC, Bryceson YT, Long EO. Synergistic signals for natural cytotoxicity are required to overcome inhibition by c-Cbl ubiquitin ligase. Immunity. 2010 Feb 26;32(2):175-86.

Liu D, Bryceson YT, Meckel T, Vasiliver-Shamis G, Dustin ML, Long EO. Integrin-dependent organization and bidirectional vesicular traffic at cytotoxic immune synapses. Immunity. 2009 Jul 17;31(1):99-109.

Visit PubMed for a complete publication listing.
Visit Google Scholar for a complete citation listing.

Caption and alt tag: Cover of Immunity, July 17, 2009, issue.
Cover of Immunity, July 17, 2009, issue.

How To Apply

Research can be thrilling, but it is never easy. Do you have what it takes? We are always interested in recruiting bright and motivated young scientists. If you think this describes you, send us an application. Experience in imaging, cell biology, proteomics or bioinformatics would be a plus.

Postdoctoral fellow
Submit in PDF format (include identifier in file name)

  • Statement of interest (why you would like to work here)
  • Curriculum vitae and bibliography
  • Name and contact of three references
    Note: Do not attach letters of recommendation to your application.

Graduate student

Post-baccalaureate fellow

We do not have a post-baccalaureate position at this time.

Recent publications by postbac alumni

Rajagopalan S, Lee EC, DuPrie ML, Long EO. TNFR-associated factor 6 and TGF-β-activated kinase 1 control signals for a senescence response by an endosomal NK cell receptor. J Immunol. 2014 Jan 15;192(2):714-21.

Martinez E, Brzostowski JA, Long EO,* Gross CC.* Cutting edge: NKG2D-dependent cytotoxicity is controlled by ligand distribution in the target cell membrane. J Immunol. 2011 May 15;186(10):5538-42. *Co-senior authors

Rajagopalan S, Moyle MW, Joosten I, Long EO. DNA-PKcs controls an endosomal signaling pathway for a proinflammatory response by natural killer cells. Science Signaling. 2010; 3:ra14

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Last Updated February 18, 2015