The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


Research Projects

Project: Exploring the roles of the MR1-MAIT axis in the context of immunosuppressive treatments

Corbett Group

Immunosuppressive therapy, a widely utilized approach in various clinical conditions such as organ transplantation, autoimmune diseases, and allergies, aims to reduce the activity of the body's immune system through specific drugs. Recently, we observed that MAIT cell-deficient mice displayed less lymphocyte depletion after immunosuppressive drug administration, raising intriguing questions about the involvement of the MR1-MAIT axis in this process. This project aims to investigate the extent and impact of the observed insensitivity of MAIT cell-deficient mice to immunosuppressive treatments and uncover the underlying mechanisms. We will employ a range of mouse handling techniques (including the utilization of microbial infection models, bone marrow reconstitution) and RNA sequencing-based bioinformatic analysis. By enhancing our understanding of this relationship, we hope to contribute to the advancement of immunosuppressive therapies and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

Contact project supervisor for further
information and application enquiries

Project Supervisor

Dr Huimeng Wang

Project Co-supervisor

A/Prof Alexandra Corbett

Project availability
Master of Biomedical Science

Corbett Group

1 vacancies

Cross Cutting Disciplines

The Corbett group is part of the MAIT cell programme headed by Prof. Jim McCluskey, which also includes the group of Dr Sidonia Eckle and Dr Zhenjun Chen.

Mucosal-associated invariant T cells (MAIT cells) are a recently described set of unconventional T cells restricted by the MHC-I related protein 1 (MR1). MAIT cells are found in most mammals, including humans and mice, and are the most conserved set of T cells across different species. The protective and/or pathological role of MAIT cells in infections and other conditions, such as cancer, is still emerging. In light of their high frequency in humans, their functional potency and MR1 being monomorphic, MAIT cells are considered to be promising therapeutic and vaccination targets.

We are international leaders in MAIT cell research, having made significant breakthrough discoveries in MAIT cell immunity. These include identifying the antigens recognised by MAIT cells (Kjer-Nielsen et al. Nature 2012, Corbett, Eckle, Birkinshaw, Liu et al. Nature 2014, 2 patents) and the associated development of tetramers to characterise MAIT cells (Patented) (Reantragoon, Corbett et al. JEM 2013) as well as the establishment of several mouse models of disease in order to understand the role MAIT cells play in protective and aberrant immunity (Chen et al. Mucosal Immunol 2017, Wang et al. Nature Comms 2018, Wang et al. Science Immunol 2020, Zhao et al. Nature Comms In Press).

We have weekly MAIT cell programme data meetings, and our groups collaborate closely on several projects. We also share lab and management resources as well as lab and office space. Students may also be interested in other projects in the MAIT cell programme (Chen group, Eckle group).

The Corbett group is interested in understanding the production of vitamin-based antigens which are recognised by MAIT cells, as well as the signals that drive MAIT cell functions in various infection and disease settings with the long-term goal of manipulating MAIT cells for clinical benefit (vaccination or immune therapy).

We currently have two student projects on offer. However, interested PhD candidates are welcome to contact us at any time to discuss additional projects.

Corbett Group Current Projects