The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

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


Research Projects

Project: Trogocytosis: a novel communication system between cells of the immune system

Villadangos Group

Intercellular communication is an inherent property of all metazoans. In most cases, cells communicate via interactions between plasma membrane receptors, or via soluble ligands secreted by one cell and recognised by a receptor on another cell. We are studying a third form of communication described decades ago and that is thought to play major roles but remains poorly understood, namely trogocytosis. This activity entails transfer of plasma membrane from one cell to another. We have discovered that a fundamental cellular component of the innate immune system, Marginal Zone B cells (MZBC), constitutively trogocytose plasma membrane from a fundamental cellular component of the adaptive immune system, Dendritic Cells (DC). This trogocytic event is strictly dependent on the formation of a newly-discovered complex comprised of two molecular components: Complement C3 and MHC class II molecules (MHC II). In this project we will use a variety of biochemical approaches and high-end microscopy to describe the function of these hitherto unknown interactions between fundamental cellular and molecular components of the immune system. We will also characterise the molecular mechanisms underpinning trogocytosis, an activity that is believed to play major roles not just in immunity but also in other biological systems.


Further reading:

P Schriek, ... and JA Villadangos. 2022. Marginal zone B cells acquire dendritic cell functions by trogocytosis. Science 375:eabf7470. PMID: 35143312.

P Shriek and JA Villadangos. 2023. Trogocytosis and cross-dressing in antigen presentation. Curr Opin Immunol. 83: 102331. PMID: 37148582.

Contact project supervisor for further
information and application enquiries

Project Supervisor

Professor Jose Villadangos

Project Co-supervisor

Dr Adam Balic

Project availability
Master of Biomedical Science

Villadangos Group

6 vacancies

Viral Infectious Diseases
Antimicrobial Resistance
Bacterial and Parasitic Infections
Cross Cutting Disciplines
Discovery Research
Clinical and health systems research

The Villadangos group studies the first event that triggers adaptive immune responses: the presentation of pathogen or tumour antigens to T cells by Dendritic Cells, B cells and Macrophages. We are characterizing the development, regulation and impairment of antigen presenting cells by pathogens, inflammatory mediators and tumours. We are also dissecting the biochemical machinery involved in antigen capture, processing, and presentation. We use this knowledge to understand how T cell-dependent immunity is initiated and maintained and apply it to design better vaccines and immunotherapies against infectious agents and cancer.


All our projects are open to Honours/Master of Biomedical Science students and PhD/MPhil graduate researchers

Villadangos Group Current Projects