Jump to main content

DeKrey laboratory

Our research explores the areas of immunology and pharmacology with the applied goal of improving human and animal health.  Our current efforts attempt to understand the benefits and risks of activating the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR).  The AhR is a required regulatory factor for development and function of the immune system.  The AhR can be activated by a large number of compounds found in the environment such as foods and drugs, as well as some chemicals produced within our own bodies.  This means that the AhR functions as a sensor to detect changes in both the external and the internal environment.  Precise activation may serve as a therapy for some immune-mediated diseases.  Unfortunately, too much or too little activation can lead to disease. 

Mucosal antibody responses

Antibodies represent the primary effector molecule of humoral immune responses, and the IgA isotype constitutes about 70% of all the antibodies produced.  IgA is secreted from the body across mucosal barriers (along with smaller amounts of other antibody isotypes) to act as a first line of defense against toxins and infectious agents.  IgA also aids in controlling the various populations of our microbiota in the gut and elsewhere, and IgA also plays an important role in tolerance to environmental antigens.  Dysregulation of IgA has been associated with a number of chronic diseases.  We've shown that the AhR regulates antibody responses at mucosal barriers in ways that differ from what is observed in other body compartments.  The focus or our current work is to explain this differential regulation.