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Janice Telfer

Associate Professor

Research areas include all of the cells of the blood descend from the progeny of hematopoietic stem cells resident in the bone marrow. Hematopoietic stem cells are very long-lived: they survive and divide for the life of the organism. Their daughter cells go through a period of development in which they become more and more specialized, turning on and off the expression of specific genes, until they are fully differentiated. The subversion of this process of normal development often results in cancer or myelodysplasia. My laboratory is interested in how the regulation of gene expression by the RUNX family of transcription factors influences the development and cancerous transformation of cells of the immune system. Using retroviral transduction and membrane soluble protein delivery, we have shown that normal Runx transcription factors repress the expression of the transcription factor Myc, one of the most potent oncogenes known.

We are also interested in the characterization of an ancient and conserved SRCR family of immune receptors known as WC1 in cattle, present in multiple copies in the genomes of organisms ranging from sea urchins, chickens, duck-billed platypus, cattle to humans. WC1 acts as a co-activator and determiner of the response of gamma delta T cells to bacterial pathogens such as Leptospira and Anaplasma, which infect both animals and humans. Activation of gamma delta T cells is important to the design of vaccines and to cancer therapy, since they act much earlier in immune response and can catch pathogens and cancer cells that evade the antibody producing B cells and conventional alpha beta T cells.

Current Research
We are examining how Runx transcription factors regulate gene targets by modifying packaging of DNA so that it is more or less accessible to being transcribed, using lentiviral transduction and protein delivery though the membrane. We are also characterizing WC1 binding specificity for pathogens, such as Leptospira and Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agents of tuberculosis, and working to define WC1’s bacterial ligands. It is estimated that Leptospira infects 7-10 million people per year; Mycobacterium spp. Infects one-third of the world’s population. Identification of bacteria-derived molecules that stimulate a memory gamma delta T cell response will be of potentionally large impact towards the design of better vaccines against these zoonotic pathogens.

Learn more at www.vasci.umass.edu/research-faculty/janice-c-telfer

Academic Background

  • PhD Harvard University, 1995
  • Postdoctoral Training: California Institute of Technology
Hsu H, Chen C, Nenninger A, Holz L, Baldwin CL and Telfer JC. WC1 is a hybrid gammadelta TCR coreceptor and Pattern Recognition Receptor for pathogenic bacteria. Journal of Immunology, under secondary review.
Jacobs PT, Cao L, Samon JB, Kane CA, Hedblom EE, Bowcock A and Telfer JC 2013. Runx1 directly regulates human and murine c-Myc expression in a C-terminally dependent manner. PLoS One, Jul 18;8(7):e69083.
Wang F, Herzig CTA, Chen C, Hsu H, Baldwin CL, Telfer JC. 2011. Scavenger receptor WC1 contributes to the gamma delta T cell response to Leptospira. Molecular immunology. 48(6-7):801-9.
Tezgel ÖA, Telfer JC, Tew GN. 2011. De novo designed protein transduction domain mimics from simple synthetic polymers. Biomacromolecules. 12(8):3078-83.
Herzig CTA, Waters RW, Baldwin CL, Telfer JC. 2010. Evolution of the CD163 family and its relationship to the bovine gamma delta T cell co-receptor WC1. BMC Evolutionary biology. 10:181.
Contact Info

Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences
427D Integrated Science Building
661 North Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01003