Etty (Tika) Benveniste, Ph.D.
Professor and CDIB Chair
Primary Department Affiliation: Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology
Primary Research Area: Cell Friendship
CNS Cancer Biology and Treatment
Neuroimmunology and Virology
Dr. Benveniste's research is directed toward understanding how the immune system and central nervous system (CNS) communicate with each other. Specifically, her laboratory is studying the occurrence of shared cytokines/chemokines between cells of the immune and nervous systems. Astrocytes and microglia, the major glial cells of the CNS, have been shown to act as antigen-presenting cells in the CNS. We are examining the mechanisms by which cytokines modulate class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC), matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and CD40 proteins on these cells, the regulation of mRNA expression for class II MHC, MMPs and CD40, and the transcription factors involved in gene expression. The ability of astrocytes and microglia to secrete several immunoregulatory molecules (tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-6, macrophage chemotactic protein, interleukin-8) is also being studied, with an emphasis on the biological stimuli that induce these cytokines/chemokines, intracellular signaling events involved in the response, and the molecular mechanisms of gene regulation. We have also initiated studies to examine the role of MMPs in astroglioma migration and invasion, and how interferons inhibit this response at the transcriptional level. These projects will provide a better understanding of how bidirectional communication occurs between the immune and nervous systems, and how these interactions affect the functionality of glial cells. These studies are also relevant to understanding the pathogenesis of several neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease of the CNS, and HIV-1 Associated Dementia.
Dr. Hongwei Qin, Assistant Professor
Dr. Susan Nozell, Assistant Professor
Dr. Younhee Choi, Postdoctoral Fellow
Shaun Sparacio, Lab Manager
George Atkinson, Graduate Student (MSTP)
Brandi Baker, Graduate Student
Emily Brantley, Graduate Student
Sun Jung Lee, Graduate Student
Travis Laver, Graduate Student
Xueyan (Snow) Zhao, Graduate Student
Kevin Roberts, Research Assistant
Lisa Nowoslawski, Graduate Student (MSTP)
Potential Rotation Projects:
1. Influence of interferons on astroglioma production of angiogenic factors (VEGF and Interleukin-8)
2. Biological influence of Oncostatin M on astrocyte/astroglioma functions
3. Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling (SOCS-1) modulation of cytokine induced gene expression in macrophages/microglia
Biography Etty (Tika) Benveniste (b. 1956), Professor and Chairman of Cell Biology, received her Ph.D. in 1983 from UCLA in the field of immunology. During her postdoctoral studies in the Department of Neurology at UCLA, she initiated research, which has continued up to this time, on elucidating the mechanisms underlying cytokine/chemokine production by glial cells, the effects of cytokines/chemokines on glial cell function, and the ability of glial cells to function as immune effector cells in the brain.
Dr. Benveniste was supported by a National Multiple Sclerosis Society Postdoctoral Fellowship (1984-1986) at UCLA and joined the UAB faculty in 1986. Dr. Benveniste became the Chairman of the Cell Biology Department in November 2000. Her laboratory research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR).