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. 53 available »

Gaylo A, Overstreet MG, Fowell DJ. "Imaging CD4 T Cell Interstitial Migration in the Inflamed Dermis." Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. 2016 (109)Epub 2016 Mar 25.
2015 May
Misra R, Shah S, Fowell D, Wang H, Scheible K, Misra S, Huyck H, Wyman C, Ryan RM, Reynolds AM, Mariani T, Katzman PJ, Pryhuber GS. "Preterm cord blood CD4? T cells exhibit increased IL-6 production in chorioamnionitis and decreased CD4? T cells in bronchopulmonary dysplasia." Human immunology. 2015 May; 76(5):329-38. Epub 2015 Mar 20.
2014 Feb
Shi G, Field DJ, Ko KA, Ture S, Srivastava K, Levy S, Kowalska MA, Poncz M, Fowell DJ, Morrell CN. "Platelet factor 4 limits Th17 differentiation and cardiac allograft rejection." The Journal of clinical investigation. 2014 Feb; 124(2):543-52. Epub 2014 Jan 27.
2013 Sep
Overstreet MG, Gaylo A, Angermann BR, Hughson A, Hyun YM, Lambert K, Acharya M, Billroth-Maclurg AC, Rosenberg AF, Topham DJ, Yagita H, Kim M, Lacy-Hulbert A, Meier-Schellersheim M, Fowell DJ. "Inflammation-induced interstitial migration of effector CD4? T cells is dependent on integrin ?V." Nature immunology. 2013 Sep; 14(9):949-58. Epub 2013 Aug 11.
2013 Aug
Batchu SN, Hughson A, Gerloff J, Fowell DJ, Korshunov VA. "Role of Axl in early kidney inflammation and progression of salt-dependent hypertension." Hypertension. 2013 Aug; 62(2):302-9. Epub 2013 Jun 17.

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