Epithelial cells as master regulators of mucosal homeostasis: unraveling the regulatory role of Rab guanine nucleotide exchange factor-1 (RABGEF1)

asthma • immunology • single cell sequencing

Thomas Marichal is Research Associate at the FNRS and manages the Immuno-physiology Laboratory in the GIGA research centre (Université de Liège). Epithelial surfaces form a barrier between mammals and their environment and constitute the first line of defence against micro-organisms, foreign antigens and other environmental assailants. In the mucosa, homoeostasis relies on regulated interactions between the environment, epithelial cells (EC) and immune cells. Thomas Marichal’s team aims to understand how epithelial cell (EC) dysfunction can contribute to inflammatory diseases, such as chronic intestinal inflammations or asthma.

During the first two years of the WELBIO project, they have uncovered the crucial role of the RabGEF1 protein in maintaining intestinal homoeostasis in mice, by reducing the signalling dependent on MyD88 and p38, as well as producing chemokines via intestinal epithelial cells. The next stage of the project will focus on the pulmonary epithelium. They will study how pulmonary epithelial cells are involved in pulmonary homoeostasis and allergy-induced asthma. This will involve single-cell RNA sequencing techniques, as well as in vivo tools.

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