Personal profile

Research overview

The immune system relies on the ability to detect when cells are virally infected, or potentially tumorigenic, and to specifically eliminate these cells. This is achieved by the actions of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) class I molecules, which bind small peptides from the proteolytic turnover of proteins in the cytoplasm, and present these peptides on the cell surface to T lymphocytes. Detection of viral, or non-self, peptides can stimulate the generation of potent anti-viral cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses.

One particular human MHC class I molecule, HLA-B27, is also strongly associated with a type of inflammatory arthritis known as ankylosing spondylitis. The reasons for this association are still unclear, and we are therfore applying our knowledge of MHC class I assembly to this topic.

Research interests

The research focus of the Powis group is the function of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) class I molecules. These molecules function in the immune system by binding and presenting short peptides, around 9 amino acids in length, to T lymphocytes. By this process the immune system can detect and eliminate virally infected cells, or cells that have become altered in some way, such as tumour cells.

Our current research topics in this area incude:

  1. Do exosomes/extracellular vesicles (EV) play a role in antigen presentation? Exosomes/EV are small vesicles of around 50-200 nm in size, which are secreted by many cell types, including those of the immune system. They are replete with stimulatory molecules. They also express HLA-I MHC molecules, and we are now studying whether these molecules are immunologically active. We are sequencing the peptides present in these HLA-I molecules from cell lines, and also from blood to determine the overall HLA-I immunopeptidomes present in both health and disease.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


  • R Medicine (General)
  • Immunology, tumour immunology,immunopeptidomics


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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