Dr. Tina Mukherjee was awarded the IA Senior Research Fellowship, June 2022 to build a program that explores “Immune cells as mobile sensors of animal physiology”
Immune cells, unlike other organs (muscle, pancreas, or the liver), lack sufficient internal nutrient stores. However, these cells are highly energy demanding as they migrate and engage with diverse environmental contexts. These cells tailor their metabolic activity to modulate effector roles to conduct both immune and non-immune functions. Thus considering the nature of the immune system whose development and functional requirements are energy-consuming events, how immune cells support their metabolic needs remains poorly understood. We will undertake a comprehensive understanding of developmental programs that sustain immune physiology. How these programs moderate immune-metabolic demands to develop a functional immune system and their importance in coordinating systemic homeostasis in physiological and non-physiological/stress conditions will be addressed. We hypothesize that because immune cells possess limited nutrient reserves, they are developmentally and functionally dependent on extrinsic sources for their metabolic homeostasis. This property makes immune cells highly sensitive to extrinsic fluctuations and allows these cells to operate as metabolic sensors of internal animal state and coordinate animal physiology. We expect our work to establish the importance of immune cell metabolic states in coordinating animal physiology with short term and long-term consequences. Not only an understanding of organismal physiology from the stand point of immune cells will emerge, in a broader context, our work may prove beneficial in comprehending the underlying defects that lead to metabolic disorders and inflammatory diseases.