Photo of Kamal M. Khanna, Ph.D.

Kamal M. Khanna, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Immunology
Academic Office Location:
UConn Health
263 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06030
Phone: 860-679-4610

Immunology Graduate Program

B.S.Youngstown State UniversityBiological Sciences
Ph.D.University of Pittsburgh School of MedicineImmunology

Name of Award/HonorAwarding Organization
Junior Faculty Award American Association of Immunologist
Pathway to Independence Award (K99) NIH
Keystone Symposia scholarship award. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Fellowship award, 2004-08 Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
Recognized at the Twenty-Eighth Annual Honor Convocation as an Outstanding Student. University of Pittsburgh
Huang Foundation Trainee Achievement Award American Association of Immunologist
Chosen member of Phi Beta Delta, Honor Society for International Scholars (Beta Sigma Chapter), Youngstown State University.
Student Government Service Award for Outstanding ServiceYoungstown State University
Selected twice to the Academic All Conference Tennis Team, Mid Continent Conference. 1996 & 97 Youngstown State University
Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award for Outstanding Academic and Athletic AchievementYoungstown State University
Youngstown State Athletic Scholarship Award, 1994-1997 Youngstown State University
Academic Scholarship Award, 1993-1997 Youngstown Foundation

An effective immune response depends on the large-scale, but carefully regulated, movement of cells within and between lymphoid and peripheral tissues. Secondary lymphoid organ structure is the underlying regulator of immune responses and is responsible for promoting interactions between cells as well as between cells and extracellular matrix. In recent years, our understanding of events in secondary lymphoid tissues has been advanced by the use of multiphoton microscopy to visualize lymphocyte movement. Nevertheless, much remains to be revealed about the microanatomy of antigen-specific primary and memory CD8 T cell responses, with relatively limited data currently available from in situ visualization of endogenous CD8 T cell responses. My recent results have helped illuminate the landscape under which the endogenous CD8 T cell immune response occurs (Khanna, Science, 2007). These findings have set the stage for in situ identification of the cell types and other factors that control the processes driving each anatomical phase of the immune response to infection.

In my lab we will combine well established research methods with the novel tools that I have recently developed, which include: (i) whole mount confocal microscopy techniques using in situ MHC class I tetramer staining to allow visualization of endogenous antigen-specific CD8 T cells in virtually any tissue. This powerful method increases detection sensitivity and preserves the functional/physical anatomy of organs being studied. (ii) A new transgenic mouse (CD11c-mCherry) that expresses a red fluorescent protein (RFP) variant called mCherry under control of the CD11c promoter to allow visualization of dendritic cells (DC) in vivo and (iii) multi-photon imaging in vivo imaging. I have just established a state of the art two photon imaging system in my lab. It is a custom built Prairie microscope with 4 channel detection fitted with a Specter Physics, MaiTai DeepSee two photon laser.

Not accepting lab rotation students at this time.

Lab Rotation Projects Investigate the role of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) receptors in the local migration and localization of CD8 T cells and DC after infection: S1P receptors play a role in migration and retention of T cells in primary and secondary lymphoid organs. In collaboration with Tim Hla’s lab we will use novel mouse models to determine the role of S1P receptors in T cell and DC homing and migration under normal conditions as well as during infection. We will also employ dynamic intravital two photon microscopy to visualize the role of S1P receptors in T cell and DC activation and migration after infection.

Visualize the dynamics of CD8 T cell immune response during latent herpesvirus infections: Herpesvirus infections are considerably widespread, where the virus establishes a life long infection in its host even in the presence of concomitant immunity. Understanding the co-existence of latent virus in the presence of an active immune system is an important biological problem that offers a fascinating model for studying T cell immunobiology. Following MCMV infection certain immunodominant epitope (during lytic phase of MCMV infection) specific CD8 T cells contract and continue to “deflate” during the latent phase of the infection. However, other epitope specific CD8 T cells continue to gradually expand throughout the life of the host long after latency is established. The mechanisms that contribute to this intriguing interplay of “deflationary” vs. “inflationary” anti-viral CD8 T cell responses are poorly understood. Thus, one of my goals will focus on understanding the dynamics of the immune system during latent herpesvirus infections.

Investigate the role of pregnane X receptor (PXR; orphan nuclear receptor) in host defense and the maintenance of homeostasis against gastrointestinal bacterial infections in vivo: The mucosal surface of the gut is a specialized organ defending against entry of toxins and bacteria. This component of “innate immunity” utilizes pattern recognition receptors (also called PRRs), like the TLRs, the first line of defense against foreign challenge. Although recent reports have identified potential mechanisms that mediate immune homeostasis during steady state conditions, our understanding of the components that regulate host defense against infections in the intestinal mucosa remains poor. This is especially true with respect to xenobiotic receptors, including Pregnane X-Receptor (PXR). PXR is highly expressed in the intestinal epithelial cells and have recently been shown to be important in maintaining immune homeostasis in inflammatory bowel disease. Our preliminary data shows that PXR can regulate components of the innate immune system and thus is likely to play an important role in regulating immunity against intestinal pathogenic infections.

Two Photon confocal microscopy: Many elegant studies recently have pioneered the use of two photon microscopy to visualize T cell activation and migration in an intact mouse or in tissue explants. My lab is equipped with a state of the art two photon imaging system to perform intravital dynamic imaging of immune cells in vivo. My lab uses novel mice models to visualize the role of various proteins including S1P1R in T cell and dendritic cell activation and migration. In addition, my lab will focus on imaging the onset of a primary as well as a secondary immune response to viral and bacterial infection. To this end, fluorescent viruses and bacteria will be used to visualize the interplay between the antigen presenting cells and the responding antigen specific T cells in live animals and in explanted secondary lymphoid organs.

Journal Articles