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DPhil projects available

Dannielle Wellington

PhD; MRes; BSc

Postdoctoral Scientist

Innate & Adaptive mechanisms of viral control

Since the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, my research focus has been on the antigen processing and presentation of viral peptides to CD8 T cells and the subsequent activation of immune responses.  As a novel virus little is known about the viral peptides from SARS-CoV-2 that can stimulate CD8 T cell responses.  Our group have identified and characterised some immunodominant CD8 T cell responses to this virus.  Following on from this, I am investigating how these viral peptides are processed and presented to CD8 T cells through the MHC Class I antigen presentation pathway.  

Prior to the pandemic, my research focussed on the innate interferon-induced transmembrane protein 3 (IFITM3) which is important in the restriction and control of several viruses, including Influenza virus, Dengue virus, Hanta virus, Hepatitis C virus and Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  The mechanism for viral restriction by IFITM3 is unknown but it is thought that IFITM3 can prevent the release of the viral genome from the endocytic compartment into the cytosol, a necessary step for viral replication.  A mutation in the DNA of IFITM3 can lead to faster progression to AIDS or liver cirrhosis in HIV and Hepatitis C infections, respectively, as well as increasing the severity of influenza in patients.  This is despite of the fact that this single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs12252, has no effect on the protein sequence of IFITM3.   

I am working to characterise IFITM3 further by confirming its expression pattern and location within cells. Determining whether this can be altered due to interferon concentration or type, as well as following infection with influenza. With more knowledge of the IFITM3 protein we hope to learn how it functions in viral restriction and why the SNP rs12252 has such a large influence on the severity of viral infections.   

Prior to joining the University of Oxford, I graduated from the University of Bristol with a BSc in Cancer Biology & Immunology, before completing an integrated PhD (MRes and PhD combined) in Cancer sciences at the University of Southampton.  This project focussed on the link between an MHC Class I antigen presentation pathway protein called ERAP and the autoimmune disease Ankylosing Spondylitis. 

In addition to my research I like to take an active role in public engagement and inspiring the next generation of young scientists.  Within my role as a STEM ambassador I regularly speak with school children about life as a scientist as well as organising and taking part in activities to get the public excited about research.