University of Pittsburgh Department of Cell Biology
  • Research

    Imaging Immunology.

    The driving forces behind my research are cutting edge optical imaging and their application to studying basic cell biologic processes in the immune system.

    Dendritic cells are ubiquitous throughout the body, their primary function is as 'danger' detectors, the cells take up antigens from exogenous agents, process and present the antigen on the surface of the cell. Once exposed to antigen the cells mature, and migrate through the lymphatic drainage system to the lymph node where they present the antigen to effector cells of the immune system (such as cytotoxic T lymphocytes). Recently we showed that rather than acting in isolation, the DCs are actually physically interconnected through a network of extremely small tubules which allows clonal activation of populations of cells rather than each cell acting independently. Essentially electrical connectivity between cells allows a single cell to activate several neighbors (over a distance of several hundred microns). These activated cells then migrate toward the signaling cell and take up and process antigen also. Once activated the cells loose their dendritic appearance prior to migrating through the lymphatics. Once at the lymph node they reassume their dendritic morphology. Our studies depend critically on an array of live cell imaging methods; ratiometric measures of calcium concentration, high resolution DIC, Live cell Confocal, Confocal, 2P methods These efforts are now being expanded to include the functional role of nantotubes in immune cross presentation.

  • Publications

    1. Draviam RA, Shand SH, Watkins SC. The beta-delta-core of sarcoglycan is essential for deposition at the plasma membrane. Muscle Nerve. 2006 Oct 11
    2. Draviam RA, Wang B, Li J, Xiao X, Watkins SC. Mini-dystrophin efficiently incorporates into the dystrophin protein complex in living cells. J Muscle Res Cell Motil. 2006 Feb 23
    3. Draviam RA, Wang B, Shand SH, Xiao X, Watkins SC. alpha-Sarcoglycan is Recycled from the Plasma Membrane in the Absence of Sarcoglycan Complex Assembly. Traffic. 2006 May 5
    4. Watkins SC, Salter RD. Functional connectivity between immune cells mediated by tunneling nanotubules. Immunity. 2005 Sep;23(3):309-18.
    5. Salter RD, Tuma-Warrino RJ, Hu PQ, Watkins SC. Rapid and extensive membrane reorganization by dendritic cells following exposure to bacteria revealed by high-resolution imaging. J Leukoc Biol. 2004 Feb;75(2):240-3.(COVER)
    6. Birder LA, Nakamura Y, Kiss S, Nealen ML, Barrick S, Kanai AJ, Wang E, RuizG, De Groat WC, Apodaca G, Watkins S, Caterina MJ. Altered urinary bladder function in mice lacking the vanilloid receptor TRPV1. Nature Neurosci. 2002 Sep;5(9):856-86
    7. Watkins S, Geng X, Li L, Papworth G, Robbins PD, Drain P. Imaging secretory vesicles by fluorescent protein insertion in propeptide rather than mature secreted Peptide.Traffic. 2002 Jul;3(7):461-71.
    8. Finkel, M.S., Oddis, C.V., Jacob, T.D., Watkins, S.C., Hattler, B.G., and Simmons, R.L. Nitric oxide mediated inotropic effects of cytokines in the heart. Science 257: 387-389, 1992.
    9. Khurana, T.S., Watkins, S.C. and Kunkel, L.M.,The subcellular distribution of Chromosome 6-encoded protein in the brain. J. Cell Biol. 119: 357-366, 1992.
    10. Lidov, H.G., T.J. Byers, S.C. Watkins, and L.M. Kunkel, Localization of dystrophin to postsynaptic regions of central nervous system cortical neurons. Nature, 1990. 348(6303): p. 725-8.
    11. Watkins, S.C., E.P. Hoffman, H.S. Slayter, and L.M. Kunkel, Immunoelectron microscopic localization of dystrophin in myofibres. Nature, 1988. 333(6176): 863-6.


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