ERC Consolidator grant for Monika Wolkers on RNA binding proteins in T cells

Monika Wolkers, group leader at the department of Hematopoiesis of Sanquin, received a prestigious ERC consolidator grant. This European grant allows Dr. Wolkers to study the effector function of T cells in response to infections and cancer.

T cells are critical to fight infections and to clear tumor cells. To do so, they produce inflammatory cytokines and cytotoxic molecules. However, because these effector molecules are highly toxic, they must also be tightly controlled: too little leads to the inability to control the pathogen, and too much can result in a life-threatening cytokine storm and tissue damage.

Regulation of cytokines

While transcriptional control of effector genes is well-studied, it is not well understood when, how and how much protein is produced from the mRNA. Dr. Wolkers focuses specifically on the role of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) herein. Her lab recently identified ZFP36L2 as one of the responsible RBPs that regulates several cytokines in T cells.

Wolkers: “Cells contain over a thousand putative RBPs. Their expression and function is cell-type specific. A systematic analysis of RBPs in T cells is lacking”. Dr. Wolkers and her group will therefore take a novel, highly sensitive proteomics approach to systematically identify the RBP repertoire in resting and activated primary human T cells. She will also use the combination of mouse genetics and molecular and cellular biology to gain a deep understanding of the control of cytokine production

This research will significantly advance our understanding of post-transcriptional regulation of T cell effector activity. It should also help to develop novel tools to drive effective T cell responses against pathogens and tumor cells.