Epigenetics and immunity: Does the environment influence the immune response to vaccination via epigenetic mechanisms?


Epigenetic modifications to cells describe alterations to the genetic material that regulate gene expression but leave the DNA sequence unchanged. The long-lived nature of certain types of epigenetic modification, DNA methylation for example, is thought to explain how environmental influences can mediate phenotypic effects. This project will investigate the hypothesis that differential epigenetic profiles can impact upon the immune response mounted following vaccination and account for the observation that certain vaccines, e.g. the BCG vaccine against tuberculosis, demonstrate variable efficacy and induce different immunological profiles in geographically distinct populations.


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Roederer M, Quaye L, Mangino M, Beddall MH, Mahnke Y, Chattopadhyay P, Tosi I, Napolitano L, Terranova Barberio M, Menni C, Villanova F, Di Meglio P, Spector TD, Nestle FO. The genetic architecture of the human immune system: a bioresource for autoimmunity and disease pathogenesis. Cell. 2015 Apr 9;161(2):387-403.


Lalor MK, Floyd S, Gorak-Stolinska P, Ben-Smith A, Weir RE, Smith SG, Newport MJ, Blitz R, Mvula H, Branson K, McGrath N, Crampin AC, Fine PE, Dockrell HM. BCG vaccination induces different cytokine profiles following infant BCG vaccination in the UK and Malawi. J Infect Dis. 2011 Oct 1;204(7):1075-85.  


Kleinnijenhuis J, Quintin J, Preijers F, Benn CS, Joosten LA, Jacobs C, van Loenhout J, Xavier RJ, Aaby P, van der Meer JW, van Crevel R, Netea MG. Long-lasting effects of BCG vaccination on both heterologous Th1/Th17 responses and innate trained immunity. J Innate Immun. 2014;6(2):152-8.


Netea MG, van Crevel R. BCG-induced protection: effects on innate immune memory. Semin Immunol. 2014 Dec;26(6):512-7.

Biological Areas:



Genes, development and STEM approaches to biology