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Paulo Bettencourt



The immunological memory induced by pathogens or vaccines can provide protection against future infection. Memory T and B cells help assure a fast, effective and specific response upon encounter with the pathogen. Pathogen infected cells present peptides via MHC molecules to T and B cell pools. Mechanism of antigen presentation is key to a protective immune response. The quality of this response depends on the diversity of the peptide pool. Moreover, the antigen presentation via MHC represents a pathogen signature that defines the T-cell response to a given infection.

By identifying the profile of peptides presented at different stages of an infection, we will be able to select the most relevant peptides that induce the highest and broadest activation of T and B cells against a particular pathogen, thus promoting a long and lasting protection.

With the aim of discovering new and unexplored peptides presented by infected cells, the main focus of my research is the qualitative and quantitative identification of the MHC bound peptide pool, by mass spectrometry, in the major infectious diseases, malaria and tuberculosis. The newly identified and validated antigenic peptides will be studied as potential new vaccine candidates, to be included in prime/boost based vaccines.

Key Publications

Paulo Bettencourt, Sabrina Marion, David Pires, Leonor F Santos, Claire Lastrucci, Nuno Carmo, Jonathon Blake, Vladimir Benes, Gareth Griffiths, Olivier Neyrolles, Geanncarlo Lugo-Villarino, Elsa Anes. Actin-binding protein regulation by microRNAs as a novel microbial strategy to modulate phagocytosis by host cells: the case of N-Wasp and miR-142-3p. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiolology, 3:19 (2013).

Paulo Bettencourt, David Pires, Nuno Carmo and Elsa Anes. Application of Confocal Microscopy for Quantification of Intracellular Mycobacteria in Macrophages. In book: Microscopy: Science, Technology, Applications and Education. A. Méndez-Vilas and J. Díaz (Eds.). Formatex Research Center, Vol. 1: 614-621 (2010).

B Sönnichsen, L B Koski, A Walsh, P Marschall, B Neumann, M Brehm, A-M Alleaume, J Artelt, P Bettencourt, E Cassin, M Hewitson, C Holz, M Khan, S Lazik, C Martin, B Nitzsche, M Ruer, J Stamford, M Winzi, R Heinkel, M Röder, J Finell, H Häntsch, S J M Jones, M Jones, F Piano, K C Gunsalus, K Oegema, P Gönczy, A Coulson, A A Hyman, C J Echeverri. Full-genome RNAi profiling of early embryogenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature, 434(7032):462-469 (2005).