Dissecting the role of unconventional T cells in response to tuberculosis infection

University of Southampton

About the Project

This project aims to characterise the role of emerging “unconventional” T cells in protection from tuberculosis (TB) infection. The student will develop expertise in a rapidly developing field of immunology and techniques such as flow cytometry, advanced 3D cell culture models, and in vivo models of TB infection.

Tuberculosis (TB), an infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), remains a leading cause of death worldwide. BCG is the only licenced vaccine but has poor effectiveness. Current TB vaccine strategies have focussed on targeting “conventional” immune cells called T cells with limited success. However, humans and non-human primates (NHPs) have diverse groups of “unconventional” immune cells such as gamma-delta T cells that are poorly understood. Emerging evidence suggests that unconventional populations play a vital role in the immune response in human TB. However, the impact of these T cell populations in TB and the receptors that trigger these T cell responses remain elusive. To address this, the student will characterise a specific gamma-delta T cell population that has been identified as important in human TB, called Vδ1 T cells, in NHPs, to determine if this population has a role in protection against infection. The student will also investigate the role of a group of receptors called CD1, in driving Vδ1 T cell responses. The functional impact of these T cells in TB will then be investigated using novel methodology including an innovative 3-dimensional cell culture system that more closely resembles what happens in patients. This project will develop expertise in molecular cloning, protein biochemistry, flow cytometry, T cell biology, in vitro and in vivo infection models, and advanced 3D cell culture models. This interdisciplinary approach, linking expertise at the university of Southampton and scientists at the UKHSA may help inform future TB vaccines to tackle the ongoing pandemic.

A driving licence required to commute between the university of Southampton and UKHSA Porton down when required

​​The successful candidate is likely to have the following qualifications:

A 1stor 2:1 degree in a biological science and/or second degree with a related Masters. 

Administrative contact and how to apply:

Please complete the University’s online application form, which you can find at

https://student-selfservice.soton.ac.uk/BNNRPROD/bzsksrch.P_Login?pos=7201&majr=7201&term=202324

You should enter Dr Salah Mansour as your proposed supervisor. To support your application provide an academic CV (including contact details of two referees), official academic transcripts and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date).

Informal enquiries relating to the project or candidate suitability should be directed to Dr Salah Mansour​ () and Professor Paul Elkington ().

Interview date: 05/07/2023

Start date: 25/09/2023

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