Magali IRLA
  • E-mail :[email]
  • Phone : +33 4 91 26 94 97
  • Location : Marseille, France
Last update 2017-05-05 18:49:41.239

Magali IRLA PhD in Immunology, HDR

Course and current status

Since 2013: Prinicpal Investigator; Center of Immunology Marseille-Luminy (CIML), France

Project: "Differentiation and regeneration of thymic epithelial cells, pivotal players in the generation of immunocompetent T cells"

2010-2012:  Junior group leader, Ambizione Fellow (Swiss National Science Foundation) - Department of Pathology and Immunology - University of Geneva Medical School, Switzerland

Project: Mechanisms controlling the patterning and homeostasis of the thymic medulla, a microenvironment specialized in T cell tolerance induction”

2006-2010:   Postdoctoral fellow, Pr. Walter Reith’s laboratory - Department of Pathology and Immunology - University of Geneva Medical School, Switzerland

Project: “Cellular and molecular mechanisms controlling the cellularity of Aire+ medullary thymic epithelial cells - key mediators of central T cell tolerance”

2001-2005:   Ph.D. in Immunology, Dr. Catherine Nguyen’s laboratory - INSERM-U928 - University of Aix-Marseille II, France

Project:  “Genomic and functional characterization of a gene expressed by thymic epithelial cells: Spatial

2001:  Master in Immunology, University of Aix-Marseille II

Scientific summary

Magali Irla has a particular interest in understanding the mechanisms controlling the induction of T-cell tolerance in the thymus.  The thymic medulla provides a specialized microenvironment dedicated for T-cell education. Medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) play a central role in this pivotal process by their unique capacity to activate a promiscuous gene-expression program leading to the synthesis of a large repertoire of peripheral self-antigens. This gene expression program is controlled by the Autoimmune Regulator (Aire), a transcription factor that is defective in the human disease autoimmune polyendocrinopathy candidiasis ectodermal dystrophy (APECED). Her work has established that cellularity of mTECs expressing Aire is controlled by auto-antigen specific interactions with developing CD4+ thymocytes (Immunity 2008, Trends Immunol 2010). She further established that these interactions also regulate the expansion and patterning of the thymic medulla (Front Immunol. 2015, J Immunol. 2013, PLoS One. 2012). She extended her interest in the field of T-cell tolerance by studying the mechanisms controlling the maintenance of T-cell tolerance in the periphery, with a particular emphasis on the role of plamacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs). She found that pDCs via their ability to present Ags to CD4+ T cells confer a natural protection against autoimmune disease development and thus can determine the outcome of adaptive immune responses in vivo (J Exp Med. 2010).

Current research axes:

  • Axis 1: Although others and we have shown that mTEC differentiation in the postnatal thymus is controlled by developing CD4+ thymocytes through RANK and CD40 axes, much remains to be investigated in this regard. We are currently studying the molecular and epigenetic mechanisms that drive mTEC differentiation using genome-wide approaches. The identification of these mechanisms could find applications for protecting from the development of autoimmune disorders.

This project is supported by a Marie Curie reintegration Grant from the European Commission - SIGNEPI4TOL project.

  • Axis 2: We are studying the mechanisms that drive the regeneration of TECs, which is critical to sustain de novo T-cell production notably after bone marrow transplantation. The recovery of a fully competent T-cell compartment is a prolonged process compared to that of myeloid, NK or B cells. Thus, understanding the mechanisms that control TEC regeneration is of clinical interest to boost T-cell reconstitution and thus to prevent a period of compromised immunity after cytoablative treatments. 

In this context, we recently identified that RANKL is naturally upregulated in the thymus during the early phase of thymic regeneration. The in vivo neutralization of RANKL impairs TEC recovery whereas ex vivo RANKL administration during bone marrow transplantation boosts thymic regeneration and T-cell production (EMBO Mol Med. 2017).

  • Axis 3: We are investigating the molecular mechanisms that sustain the suppressive functions of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) that are critical for the maintenance of peripheral T-cell tolerance. We aim at identifying new molecules that control the regulatory properties of Tregs, which is of special interest for autoimmune disorders and cancer immunotherapy.


Selected publications:

  • Lopes N, Vachon H, Marie J and Irla M. Administration of RANKL boosts thymic regeneration upon bone marrow transplantation. EMBO Mol Med. 2017 Apr 28. pii: e201607176.
  • Lopes N, Sergé A, Ferrier P and Irla M. Thymic Crosstalk Coordinates Medulla Organization and T-Cell Tolerance Induction. Front Immunol. 2015 Jul 20;6:365.
  • Cédile O, Løbner M, Toft-Hansen H, Frank I, Wlodarczyk A, Irla M, Owens T. Thymic CCL2 influences induction of T-cell tolerance.J Autoimmun. 2014 Dec;55:73-85. 
  • Emre Y, Irla M, Dunand-Sauthier I, Ballet R, Meguenani M, Jemelin S, Vesin C, Reith W, and Imhof B. Thymic epithelial cell expansion through matricellular protein CYR61 boosts progenitor homing and T-cell output. Nat. Commun. 2013; 4:2842. 
  • Irla M*, Guenot J, Sealy G, Reith W, Imhof BA, Sergé A*. Three-dimensional visualization of the mouse thymus organization in health and immunodeficiency. J Immunol. 2013 Jan 15;190(2):586-96. *Co-corresponding author.
  • Irla M*, Guerri L, Guenot J, Sergé A, Lantz O, Liston A, Imhof BA, Palmer E, Reith W*. Antigen recognition by autoreactive CD4(+) thymocytes drives homeostasis of the thymic medulla. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52591. *Co-corresponding author.
  • Irla M, Kupfer N, Benkhoucha M, Lalive P, Suter T, Fontana A, and Reith W* and Hugues S*. MHC class II restricted antigen presentation by plasmacytoid dendritic cells inhibits T-cell mediated autoimmunity. J Exp Med. 2010 Aug 30;207(9):1891-905.* co-authors.
  • Irla M, Holländer GA, Reith W. Control of central self-tolerance induction by autoreactive CD4+ thymocytes. Trends Immunol. 2010 Feb;31(2):71-79. 
  • Irla M, Hugues S, Gill J, Nitta T, Hikosaka Y, Williams IR, Hubert FX, Scott HS, Takahama Y, Holländer GA, Reith W. Autoantigen-specific interactions with CD4+ thymocytes control mature medullary thymic epithelial cell cellularity. Immunity. 2008;29(3):451-63.
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