Research Lab of Mercedes Rincón, Ph.D.


Areas of interest: molecular immunology, asthma, autoimmune diseases.

The main goal of our group is to understand the molecular mechanisms that control thymic development, activation, differentiation and survival of T cells. Specifically, we are working on: 1) the role of the p38 MAP kinase signaling pathway in the regulation of a G2/M cell cycle checkpoint in immature thymocytes, 2) the regulation and role of p38 MAP kinase in death of CD8+ T cells and its implications in arthritis, 3) the regulation and role of JNK in CD4+ and CD8+ T cell activation and death, 4) the regulation and role of NFAT in activation and survival of naïve and memory CD4+ T cells, and 5) the role of IL-6 in the differentiation of CD4+ T cells into Th1 and Th2 effector cells in vitro and its implication in in vivo development of allergic airways inflammation and tumor development . We are addressing these questions from a molecular point of view, trying to identify the upstream and downstream components of the signaling pathways. To this end, we are using a variety of experimental approaches including the generation of new transgenic and knockout mouse models, RNAi, microarray analysis/bioinformatics, molecular cloning, and in vitro and in vivo T cell activation models. We are also actively working on the molecular mechanisms underline multidrug resistance in breast and ovarian cancer.

Lab Team
Tina Thorton, Ph.D.Assistant Professor
(802) 656-1018Email

Programs & Projects

The role of IL-6 in the immune response and diseases

Dr. Rincón is one of the leaders studying the role of IL-6 in CD4 T cell differentiation and cytokine production (since 1996) and has provided a number of important contributions. Her group has shown the role of IL-6 in Th2 and Th1 differentiation, and more recently on IL-21 production by CD4 T cells, and its implication on antibody production on B cells. Dr. Rincon’s studies on IL-6 expand from in vitro in primary mouse and human CD4 T cells to in vivo mouse models (e.g. IL-6 in influenza virus vaccines and infection, IL-6 on allergic airway inflammation) and further to bench site (IL-6 in asthmatic patients and IL-6 on rheumatoid arthritis patients).

The role of p38 MAPK in thymocyte development and T cell activation/death

Dr. Rincón is a pioneer studying the role of the p38 MAP kinase signaling pathway in CD4 T cell differentiation, CD8 T cell death, and more recently its “non-classical” functions in early thymocyte development. She is interested on the role of p38 MAPK in the induction of G2/M cell cycle checkpoint in immature developing thymocytes. In addition, recent studies on p38 MAPK in thmocytes have led her to identify a novel mechanism by which p38 MAPK can mediate cell survival (an unconventional function of this pathway) through the regulation of GSK3β. Her group is actively dissecting when p38 MAPK provides survival and what are the mechanisms.

Mechanism of chemoresistance in breast cancer

Another independent area of interest for Dr. Rincón is breast cancer and chemotherapy response. Her initial studies on the role of IL-6 in regulating breast cancer cell response to chemotherapy have been followed by studies on a novel molecule, MCJ/DnaJC15 cochaperone, also in breast cancer chemotherapy response. Her studies in breast cancer go from in vitro molecular analysis, to in vivo mouse models of mammary cancer and human breast cancer patients. Dr. Rincón’s interests are not only on molecular mechanisms, but moving bench work to clinical translational research in the breast cancer area.