Molecular Immunology

kao Masahiko Sugita, M.D., Ph.D. Professor btn

The universe of antigens recognized by the immune system has recently been expanded to include not only protein antigens but also lipid antigens. By orchestrating immunological, cell biological, and biochemical approaches, our laboratory aims to establish the molecular and cellular basis for lipid antigen presentation and T cell activation, hoping to contribute to accurate diagnosis of cancer and microbial infection and develop a new type of lipid-based vaccines. We encourage young investigators interested in our research endeavors to join us regardless of their educational backgrounds.

Research and Education

Rapid progress in molecular biology in the 1980s resulted in elucidation of a molecular basis for the protein antigen-specific immunity. Milestone discoveries such as X-ray crystallographic visualization of peptide-MHC interactions and the diversity of T-cell receptors generated by gene rearrangement convinced most immunologists with excitement that the molecular basis for “antigen specificity”, a most salient feature of our immune system, had been fully disclosed. While sharing excitement, I was personally puzzled by a naive question that came up to me after clinical practice. “Does the universe of antigens recognized by the immune system only include proteins?” Campylobacter infection often induces immune responses directed against glycolipids. Autoantibodies against double-strand DNA are detected in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. These clinical observations provide evidence for the yet unappreciated ability of the immune system to specifically recognize lipids and nucleic acids. Our laboratory now aims to unravel a molecular and cellular basis for the lipid-specific immune response and to develop lipid-based vaccines against cancer and microbial infection.

r-096-1lab members

Recent Publications

1. Morita D, Yamamoto Y, Suzuki J, Mori N, Igarashi T, Sugita M. (2013) Molecular requirements for T cell recognition of N-myristoylated peptides derived from the simian immunodeficiency virus Nef protein. J. Virol. 87: 482-488.

2. Morita D, Hattori Y, Nakamura T, Igarashi T, Harashima H, Sugita M. (2013) Major T cell response to a mycolyl glycolipid is mediated by CD1c molecules in rhesus macaque monkeys. Infect. Immun. 81: 311-316.

3. Kobayashi C, Shiina T, Tokioka A, Hattori Y, Komori T, Kobayashi-Miura M, Takizawa T, Takahara K, Inaba K, Inoko H, Takeya M, Dranoff G, Sugita M. GM-CSF-independent CD1a expression in epidermal Langerhans cells: evidence from human CD1A genome-transgenic mice. (2012) J. Invest. Dermatol. 132: 241-244.

4. Morita D, Igarashi T, Horiike M, Mori N, Sugita M. (2011) Cutting edge: T cells monitor N-myristoylation of the Nef protein in simian immunodeficiency virus-infected monkeys. J. Immunol. 187: 608-612.

5. Komori T, Nakamura T, Matsunaga I, Morita D, Hattori Y, Kuwata H, Fujiwara N, Hiromatsu K, Harashima H, Sugita M. A microbial glycolipid functions as a new class of target antigen for delayed-type hypersensitivity. (2011) J. Biol. Chem. 286: 16800-16806.


Professor: Masahiko Sugita, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor: Daisuke Morita, Ph.D.
TEL +81-75-751-4029
FAX +81-75-752-3232