Vincenzo Cerundolo is distinguished for his discoveries in processing and presentation of peptides and lipids to T cells. He was first to demonstrate that TAP genes within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) transport peptides presented by MHC class I molecules and describe a novel clinical syndrome in patients with defective TAP genes. Cerundolo characterised the relationship between the length of peptides and their binding affinity to MHC class I molecules, explaining the homogeneous length of peptides isolated from MHC class I molecules.
He demonstrated that proteasome dependent degradation of antigenic proteins plays a key role not only in controlling presentation of intracellular, but also of extracellular proteins taken up byantigen presenting cells, hence defining the mechanism for the process known as cross-presentation.
He characterised the structural and kinetic mechanisms by which lipids bind to CD1 molecules and are recognized by T cells and demonstrated that harnessing CD1 restricted NKT cells enhances antigen specific antibody and T cell responses. These seminal findings have opened up novel therapeutic strategies to enhance immune responses against cancer and pathogens.
Professor Vincenzo Cerundolo FMedSci FRS died on 7 January 2020.
Director, MRC Human Immunology Unit, University of Oxford
Interest and expertise
Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology
Cellular and humoral immunology
Cancer immunity, Antigen Processing and Presentation