lake-2896370_1920The Canadian Rockies in their unparalleled majesty formed the backdrop for the 30th Annual Spring Meeting of the Canadian Society for Immunology (CSI) this past April. Immunologists from across the nation descended upon the town of Banff, Alberta for four days of science, socials, and (maybe just a bit of) skiing. CSI2017 boasted an impressive program of speakers, from Canada and abroad, who are engaged in exciting, cutting-edge research. As is the custom at CSI, trainees got an opportunity to not only meet and greet with top scientists in the field, but also to present their own findings at the conference’s workshop sessions and get career development advice from Dr. Nana Lee (University of Toronto) at the “Strategies for Landing the Job After Grad School” event (which even brought a family of deer to the window). Tucked away in Canada’s first National Park and enveloped by unending ranges of snow-capped peaks, CSI2017 was as much a wilderness getaway as a meeting of the minds, and it will be a hard one to top!


The conference opened with keynote speaker Dr. David Artis (Weill Cornell Medical College), who started the conversation about mucosal immunology by talking about innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) in the lung and airways. Notably, ILCs play a role in tissue repair and epithelial barrier integrity—an important function since many influenza-associated deaths occur because of compromised tissue repair homeostasis rather than viremia. Furthermore, ILC2s mediate proinflammatory responses through a cell-intrinsic metabolic pathway involving the enzyme arginase-1 (Arg1) during type 2 lung inflammation. This provides insight into the metabolic circuitry governing ILC biology and highlights potential targets for treatment of various inflammatory and metabolic diseases.


The first symposium of the conference explored the molecular mechanisms regulating T cell memory responses. Dr. Martin Richer (McGill University) explained the “not so sweet side of immunoregulation” by examining how IL-10 dampens T cell receptor (TCR) sensitivity to antigen through glycosylation during lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus clone 13 (LCMV cl 13) infection. Dr. Jeff Nolz (Oregon Health and Science University) continued the discussion on glycosylation by introducing the dynamic regulation of O-linked glycans on CD8 T cells. O-linked glycans, which interact with P- and E-selectins to facilitate trafficking of T cells into inflamed tissue, are most highly expressed on effector cells, lost on memory cells, but restored during secondary challenge through de novo synthesis in an IL-15-dependent and antigen-independent manner for re-entry into the tissue. Memory T cells that do not re-enter circulation and remain in the affected tissue after clearance of the pathogen are referred to as tissue-resident memory cells (Trm); this subset was the subject of the remaining few talks in the session. Dr. Tania Watts (University of Toronto) presented the tumour necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily members GITR and 4-1BB as regulators of Trm establishment in peripheral tissue. In particular, 4-1BB is shown to be indispensable for Trm formation in the lung after influenza infection. The purinergic receptor/ion channel P2RX7 was the subject of the talk given by Dr. Steve Jameson (University of Minnesota), who showed that it is required for the formation of CD103+ Trm in small intestinal tissue and circulating central memory cells, and serves as a metabolic checkpoint for T cell differentiation. Local immunization is crucial for Trm commitment, and this message was emphasized by Dr. Donna Farber (Columbia University Medical Center) who found that the intranasal FluMist vaccine for influenza induces a greater lung Trm population compared to the injectable FluZone. Her group also examined the distribution of memory CD4 and CD8 T cells within different human tissues, and found that human Trm had decreased clonality compared to circulating effector memory populations. Closing off the symposium was Dr. Nathalie Labrecque (Université de Montréal) who examined the role of Notch signalling in the regulation of PD-L1 expression in CD8 T cell activation, differentiation, and exhaustion.


The second symposium of the conference featured natural killer (NK) cells. Dr. Barbara Kee (University of Chicago) explored the transcriptional regulation of NK function and development by ID2, which is required for effector NK cell generation through chromatin accessibility at enhancer regions of effector genes. Next, Dr. Andre Veillette (Université de Montréal) discussed SLAM-SAP pathways in the “education” of NK cells as deficiency for SAP results in inefficient killing of hematopoietic targets. Continuing the conversation on NK education, Dr. Jeanette Boudreau (Dalhousie University) examined the diversity of human NK receptors KIR and HLA in modulating NK effector function and reactivity. The classical paradigms of innate versus adaptive immunity were challenged by Dr. Andrew Makrigiannis (Dalhousie University), who showed that NK cells mediate long-term antigen-specific memory responses via MHC Class I receptors. Dr. Lewis Lanier (University of California San Francisco) gave an overview of the role of NK cells in viral infection, highlighting some similarities to T cell responses and their dependency on antigen for NK memory differentiation. Lastly, Dr. James Carlyle (University of Toronto) provided a historical perspective into the origins of NK1.1 and the discovery in his laboratory of the viral ligand MCMV-encoded m12 protein, which binds both the inhibitory NKR-P1B and the stimulatory NKR-P1C receptors; this exemplifies the co-evolution of virus and host in the development of viral ligand and host NK receptors.


The final day of the conference shone a spotlight on host-parasite interactions. Dr. Andre Buret (University of Calgary) discussed how exposure to the gut-colonizing parasite Giardia duodenalis can disrupt host-microbiota interactions to shape intestinal immune responses against other infections. The ability of gastrointestinal parasites to modulate host immune responses may have therapeutic value, as Dr. Mary Stevenson (McGill University) suggested that the excretory and secretory products of nematodes can be exploited for immunotherapy to induce protective host responses. Dr. P’ng Loke (New York University School of Medicine) examined alternatively activated macrophages during helminth infection and their ability to convert to tissue-resident macrophages through a vitamin A-dependent mechanism after Schistosoma mansoni infection of the liver. The conversation on helminths continued with Dr. Carla Rothlin (Yale University of Medicine), who explored their role in inducing the tissue repair program in macrophages, a process that requires recognition of apoptotic cells along with either IL-4 or IL-13. The closing act of CSI2017 was Dr. Nathan Peters (University of Calgary), who dissected the function of inflammatory monocytes during Leishmania major infection, displaying divergent roles for these cells during primary versus secondary infection.

Of course, CSI2017 would not have been possible without the support of Biolegend (Gold Sponsor), Miltenyi Biotec (Silver Sponsor), StemCell Technologies (Silver Sponsor), and Cedarlane Laboratories (General Sponsor). Karen Morley (BioLegend) and Amanda Vanden Hoek (StemCell) delivered updates on lyophilized controls for flow/mass cytometry and cell isolation technology, respectively, currently on the market from their companies. The program also contained workshop sessions and poster presentations covering topics in leukocyte biology, host-pathogen interactions, immune-mediated diseases, tumour immunology, and vaccines.

Never shy about celebrating its own, the CSI awarded the Hardy Cinader Award to Dr. Claude Perreault (Université de Montréal) for his scientific achievement and leadership. The John D. Reynolds Award was given to Dr. Michelle Letarte (University of Toronto) for her long-term service to the CSI, while Dr. Jude Uzonna (University of Manitoba) and Dr. Clint Robbins (University of Toronto) took home the Investigator Award and New Investigator Award, respectively. Congratulations to all award winners and many thanks for your contributions to the field and the scientific community.

Last, but not least, CSI2017 was possible because of the efforts and dedication of Lori Coulthurst and the local organizing committee: Kamala Patel (University of Calgary), Simon Hirota (University of Calgary), Craig Jenne (University of Calgary), Chris Mody (University of Calgary), and Hanne Ostergaard (University of Alberta). Thank you, and congratulations on a successful conference!


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Angela Zhou

Angela is a PhD student at the University of Toronto currently studying immune responses to influenza infection. When not in the lab, she enjoys painting, wandering aimlessly, and spending quality time with good friends.

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