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Innate Immunity

Oral Mucosal Immunity in Vulnerable HIV Infected Populations

In 2009, Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine was awarded a NIDCR Program Project Grant to investigate oral mucosal immunity in vulnerable HIV infected populations. The study includes four projects in the Dental and Medical Schools, and Proteomics and Administrative Cores.

The central hypothesis of this Program Project is that alterations in innate defense mechanisms determine susceptibility to oral complications following HIV infection. Previous research has discovered that oral epithelial cell-derived beta defensins can (1) be induced by HIV, (2) inhibit the ability of the virus to infect immunocompetent cells and (3) interact with specific chemokine and toll-like receptors resulting in regulation of adaptive immune cells. Moreover, chronic HIV infection and/or highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) predisposes the oral mucosae to both cellular and innate immune impairment. Interestingly, amongst the repertoire of innate immune molecules, human beta defensins (hBDs) are unique, as copy number variations have only been reported for the beta defensin gene cluster; possibly explaining the interpersonal variability in hBD expression levels. The multidisciplinary program is synergistic through the direct collaboration and interaction of Case Western Reserve University faculty and core facilities that support the projects. The projects are highly integrated on both a theoretical and collaborative basis and involve an approach that includes expertise in defensin biology, structural chemistry, HIV immunology, dermatology and genetics. The projects are supported by the Proteomics and Biostatistics Core.

Please see the Research Plan for descriptions of the research projects.

This research project is supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
Grant 1P01 DE019759 
Program Officer: Dr. Isaac R. Rodriguez-Chavez.



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Career Openings

A postdoctoral position is available to work in the area of oral innate immunity, including studies to decipher how epithelial cell derived antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) induce G-protein coupled receptor antagonism in adaptive immune cells and the trafficking of AMPs within these cells. The qualified candidate must be trained in molecular biology techniques, PCR assays, transfections, transductions, RNA interference and with some knowledge of protein chemistry and tissue culture. Additional experience in immunology is desired.

Candidates must have earned their PhDs within the last 1-2 years. The opportunity for further advancement within the institution exists. Applicants should submit an updated CV, three references, and a cover letter describing their research goals and interests to: Dr. Aaron Weinberg, Chair, Department of Biological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, 10900 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106-4905 or by email: