The Academic Senate is pleased to announce the selection of Lewis L. Lanier, Ph.D., as the recipient of the 54th Faculty Research Lecture (Basic Science). Dr. Lanier was one of the first to propose that Natural Killer (NK) cells both existed as a separate and third lineage of lymphocytes. His research has furthered understanding of NK cells and receptors.
In the early 1980’s, using then state-of-the-art multiparameter flow cytometry and molecular biology techniques, he showed that a unique subset of lymphocytes in humans, defined by DC56 and CD16 and lacking TcR gene rearrangement, was responsible for “NK activity”, and that “LAK” activity was mediated by IL-2-activited K cells.
During the 1990’s, Dr. Lanier proposed that NK cells are tightly regulated by a balance between opposing signals transmitted by inhibitory and activating receptors. His group identified, cloned, or established the function of many of these NK cell surface receptors and their ligands. He showed that many of these “NK receptors” are present on T cells and modulate their function.
In 1999, Dr. Lanier joined the faculty of UCSF in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Cancer Research Institute. His studies of NKG2D have confirmed in vivo the role of this receptor in immunity against viruses and cancer, but has also uncovered an unexpected role for this receptor in autoimmune disease and in bone marrow and heart transplantation—which currently are being translated into human therapeutics.
Dr. Lanier’s work on DAP12 led to the discovery that the DAP12-associated Ly49H NK cell receptor directly recognizes a viral glycoprotein encoded by cytomegalovirus—the first example of direct recognition of a foreign pathogen by NK cells. His group has most recently demonstrated the existence of long-lived, antigen-specific memory NK cells—indicating that immunological memory of pathogens is not restricted to the adaptive immune system.
Dr. Lanier received a B.S. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a Ph.D. from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he also did postdoctoral work in Microbiology and Immunology, which was continued at University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Immunology. Dr. Lanier has also worked in the private sector at Becton Dickinson Immocytometry Systems and DNAX Research Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Inc. He joined UCSF as Professor in 1999, and was made Vice Chairman of the Microbiology & Immunology Department in 2003. He was made the Interim Chairman of that same department in 2009.
His contributions to our basic understanding of human and mouse NK cells is readily evident by reading any textbook on basic immunology—from his initial characterization of human NK cells, his identification of many of the NK receptors, his recent demonstration of direct viral recognition by NK cells, to their role in host protection against pathogens and tumors.
The Academic Senate Faculty Research Lecture will be held in Cole Hall at the Parnassus Campus on Monday, February 14, 2011, at 3:30 p.m. A reception will follow.
For further information on Dr. Lanier’s work, please visit his lab’s webpage: http://microbiology.ucsf.edu/micro/faculty/Lanier/home.html