Regulation of NK cell activation by HLA-peptide complexes
We are interested in the function of NK cells during early pregnancy. Our work has revealed a new, beneficial role of NK cells, which respond to fetal soluble HLA-G by promoting the vascular remodeling required for proper blood supply to the fetus. We have uncovered an endosomal signaling pathway, initiated by an endosome-resident receptor, which endows NK cells with the capacity to promote vascular remodeling. Our work has identified cellular senescence as the molecular mechanism by which this NK-cell response is initiated and sustained. This has exciting implications for NK-cell function at sites of HLA-G expression, such as vascular remodeling at the implantation site during early pregnancy and at the site of HLA-G-expressing tumor cells. The concept that specific signals from NK cells may promote vascular growth and remodeling is new in the field.
Dr. Rajagopalan received her Ph.D. in immunology from the Tufts University School of Medicine in 1991. After postdoctoral research with Dr. Michael Brenner at the Brigham and Womens Hospital, Harvard Medical School, she joined the Laboratory of Immunogenetics in 1994 as a senior staff fellow. She has continued her research in LIG as a staff scientist since 2001.