Deborah J. Fowell, Ph.D.

Deborah J. Fowell, Ph.D.

Contact Information

University of Rochester Medical Center
School of Medicine and Dentistry
601 Elmwood Ave, Box 609
Rochester, NY 14642

Office: (585) 273-3680
Lab: (585) 273-2902
Administrative: (585) 273-1400
Fax: (585) 273-2452

Lab Information

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Program for Advanced Immune Bioimaging

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Research Bio

Regulation of Immunity at Tissue Sites of Infection and Autoimmunity

The acquisition and execution of CD4 effector function are tightly regulated and spatially compartmentalized. In the lymph node (LN), naïve CD4+ T cells acquire specialized functions by means of expression of distinct cytokines and acquire distinct homing properties. Therefore both the function and subsequent localization of effector cells appears to be pre-determined during differentiation in the LN. However, once CD4 effectors leave the lymph node their physical and functional fate is less well understood. The location and inflammatory context in which effector T cells are reactivated at the infection site are likely to determine the success of a given immune response. Our research focuses on mechanisms of immune regulation at tissue sites of inflammation.

Our studies with the protozoa Leishmania major suggest that this centrally (LN) generated effector repertoire can be further edited at the infected tissue site. Cytokine production in the inflamed tissue can be modulated at a number of levels including chemokine-driven differential recruitment of effector cells, the provision of signals for effector cell function and suppression by regulatory T cells (Tregs). The concept that tissue resident pathogens may subvert the centrally generated cytokine repertoire has important therapeutic implications. Novel therapies that focus on manipulating the local infection site to encourage appropriate recruitment or activation of effectors may be particularly beneficial.

Regulatory T cells play important immuno-modulatory roles at sites of inflammation in both infection and autoimmunity. Nonetheless, their mode of suppression remains controversial and is likely to be context dependent and modified by the inflammatory milieu. We focus on the molecular consequences of Treg encounter for the CD4+ T cells and have identified important points of control for early IL-2 production and for Th differentiation and effector function. Regulatory T cells can readily be found at sites of inflammation in infectious and autoimmune settings. It is clear that their activity also needs to be regulated in order to enable protective immunity to proceed but that these mechanisms of control may exacerbate autoimmune pathology. We are interested in the functional fate of Tregs at sites of inflammation, particularly in the context of autoimmune diabetes.

Awards & Honors (National)

Mary Jane Kugel Award | Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation 2007
HHMI Junior Faculty Start-up Award | University of Rochester 2000 - 2004

Awards & Honors (Local)

Deans Professorship | URMC 2013
Basic Science Mentoring Award | URMC 2011
Graduate Student Society Faculty Award | University of Rochester Medical School 2010
Discovery Concept Fund | Johnson and Johnson 2006 - 2007
Pew Scholars Nominee | University of Rochester 2000

Recent Journal Articles

Showing the 5 most recent journal articles. 58 available »

2016 Oct 18
Meli AP, Fontés G, Avery DT, Leddon SA, Tam M, Elliot M, Ballesteros-Tato A, Miller J, Stevenson MM, Fowell DJ, Tangye SG, King IL. "The Integrin LFA-1 Controls T Follicular Helper Cell Generation and Maintenance." Immunity. 2016 Oct 18; 45(4):831-846.
2016 Sep 15
Billroth-MacLurg AC, Ford J, Rosenberg A, Miller J, Fowell DJ. "Regulatory T Cell Numbers in Inflamed Skin Are Controlled by Local Inflammatory Cues That Upregulate CD25 and Facilitate Antigen-Driven Local Proliferation." The Journal of immunology : official journal of the American Association of Immunologists. 2016 Sep 15; 197(6):2208-18. Epub 2016 Aug 10.
2016 Sep
Lambert Emo K, Hyun YM, Reilly E, Barilla C, Gerber S, Fowell D, Kim M, Topham DJ. "Live Imaging of Influenza Infection of the Trachea Reveals Dynamic Regulation of CD8+ T Cell Motility by Antigen." PLoS pathogens. 2016 Sep; 12(9):e1005881. Epub 2016 Sep 19.
2016 Aug
Batchu SN, Hughson A, Wadosky KM, Morrell CN, Fowell DJ, Korshunov VA. "Role of Axl in T-Lymphocyte Survival in Salt-Dependent Hypertension." Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology. 2016 Aug; 36(8):1638-46. Epub 2016 Jun 30.
2016 Mar 25
Gaylo A, Overstreet MG, Fowell DJ. "Imaging CD4 T Cell Interstitial Migration in the Inflamed Dermis." Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. 2016 Mar 25; (109):e53585. Epub 2016 Mar 25.

Current Appointments

Dean's Professorship - Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology (SMD)
Professor - Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology (SMD) - Primary


PhD | Immunology | Oxford University, UK1992
BS | Cellular Pathology | Bristol University, UK1988

Post-Doctoral Training & Residency

UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Infectious Disease Division (Mentor: Richard Locksley) 1998
Oxford University, UK. (Mentor: Don Mason) 1994