Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


For proper assessment of the primary literature students are expected to have completed: Genetics (7.03), General Biochemistry (7.05), Cell Biology (7.06), or Molecular Biology (7.28).


Why are infectious diseases such as HIV, mycobacterium tuberculosis, malaria or influenza thriving today and how can these bugs kill millions of people each year? These diseases are threats because our immune system sometimes fails. Although we are equipped to effectively counter most attacks from the microbial world, some pathogens have developed ways to evade both our innate and adaptive immune barriers to ensure their own survival. The strategies used by these viruses, bacteria or parasites are numerous, but target specific branches and pathways of our immune defenses.

In this course, we will explore the specific ways by which microbes defeat our immune system and the molecular mechanisms that are under attack (phagocytosis, ubiquitin/proteasome pathway, MHC I/II antigen presentation). Through the dissection and discussion of the primary research literature, we will try to understand aspects of host-pathogen interactions. Particular emphasis will be on the experimental techniques used in the field. Technological advances in the fight against microbes will also be discussed with specific examples. These sessions will serve to highlight the interplay between different disciplines of biology and the fact that much can be learned from the fundamental properties of our immune system through the study of immune evasion.

Format and Expectations

In this course, we will use the primary research literature as the main tool to learn about concepts of immune evasion. Two papers will be discussed each week, and students will be expected to have read them thoroughly. To facilitate the reading, a short 15-minute overview of the field and aspects of the immune system related to the upcoming reading material will be presented at the lecture that precedes it. Moreover, a set of four questions about the papers that will be discussed in the following week will be handed out. This material should guide students to analyse the papers. Answers will be discussed in class. There will be two assignments for each participant: a two-page written assignment (essay, Ses #4) and an oral presentation (towards the end of the semester).


The class has a pass/fail grading system without exams. Satisfactory preparation, attendance, timely submission of the written material and the oral presentation are required.


1 Overview and distribution of papers
2 Phagocytosis
3 Toll-like receptors (TLRs)
4 The proteasome and ubiquitin
5 Major histocompatibility (MHC) class I antigen presentation
6 Major histocompatiblity (MHC) class II antigen presentation
7 Cytokines
8 Programmed cell death
9 Molecular mimicry
10 Antimicrobial peptides: Innate immunity effectors
11 Oral presentation
12 Oral presentation and general discussion